TEHRAN (Iran News) – Some 43 percent of the country’s wetlands have the potential to become a source of sand and dust storms (SDSs), Sedigheh Moddares, an official with the Department of Environment (DOE) has stated.
Determining and monitoring the water needs of the wetlands and rivers, implementing wetland protection and rehabilitation programs, preparing a comprehensive wetland management plan with an ecological approach, and monitoring the country’s wetlands are the main activities of the DOE to protect wetlands, she explained.
Lack of water rights of reservoirs, illegal land-use changes in wetlands, entry, and spread of invasive species, entry of biological, chemical, and physical pollutants of agricultural lands, cities, villages, and industries; implementation of large development projects and infrastructures such as roads, petrochemicals, refineries, airports, energy transmission lines in wetlands without environmental assessment; improper use and excessive water withdrawal, climate change and legal deficiencies are among the challenges threatening the wetlands in Iran.
Pointing out that not providing the water rights of wetlands has long-term destructive effects, she said that increasing the salinity of the wetland, reducing habitat capacity, severely reducing the ability of wetlands to support the livelihood of local communities, and drying of wetlands are the most important destructive effects.
One of the intensifying effects of wetland degradation is the conversion of large parts of them to the source of SDSs, and in some cases, its effects have crossed the borders and affected large parts of the globe, she lamented.
Out of 226 wetlands nationwide, 42 are the hotspots of SDSs, including Hour Al-Azim, Shadegan, Urmia, Hamoon, Miqan, Salehieh, Bakhtegan, etc, she said.
Currently, 43 percent of the country’s wetlands are prone to give rise to dust storms, which means that if their water needs are not met, they can become new centers of dust in the country, she also noted.
Wetlands are indispensable for the countless benefits or “ecosystem services” that they provide humanity, ranging from freshwater supply, food and building materials, and biodiversity, to flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation.
Yet study after study demonstrates that wetland area and quality continue to decline in most regions of the world. As a result, the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to people are compromised.
Managing wetlands is a global challenge and the Convention presently counts 172 countries as Contracting Parties, which recognize the value of having one international treaty dedicated to a single ecosystem.
The Ramsar Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. This includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas, tidal flats, mangroves, and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.
The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
It was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.
In Iran, 141 wetlands with ecological value with an area of over 3 million hectares have been identified, of which 25 wetlands are designated as wetlands of international importance (registered in the Ramsar Convention) covering more than 1.4 million hectares and four sites are biosphere reserves.