Iran: Tehran hosts round-table on environmental challenges

23 November 2015

Tehran (ICRC) – A regional workshop and round-table discussion to explore different approaches to overcoming environmental sustainability challenges is taking place in Iran from 22 to 25 November. The event is being organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy and the Department for the Environment and with the support of the Regional Centre on Urban Water Management.

The aim of the round-table is to discuss and identify considerations to inform policy on environmental sustainability, as well as practical measures to improve the handling of environmental emergencies in the region. Ministry officials from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria will come together with ICRC representatives and international specialists to discuss water and other environmental issues in their countries and to share their experiences.

"Today we are focusing on the very complex nature of environmental challenges across the region, while recognizing that the scale and evolving nature of those challenges add to the urgency of the action required," said Iran's Minister of Energy Hamid Chitchian. "This regional workshop and round-table discussion, organized by the ICRC and hosted by Iran, will foster mutual recognition of a complex, shared problem that can also lead to vulnerabilities in different areas. This brings with it shared but different responsibilities to act."

For his part, Dr Shafie Pour, special assistant to the head of the Department of Environment, said: "One of the adverse impacts of climate change in Iran has been the increased occurrence of droughts and the reduction in annual renewable water resources. This is considered a major environmental challenge in Iran, as it is affecting agriculture and food security, as well as threatening biodiversity."

"The degree of water scarcity in the region poses an unprecedented environmental challenge," said Michael Talhami, ICRC regional water and habitat coordinator. The consequences of environmental sustainability issues make people more vulnerable to not only climate change, but also the onset of natural disasters, conflict and migration. Although not all of the participating countries are affected to the same extent and by the same risks, the round-table provides an important platform for discussing water and other environmental problems with a view to enhancing emergency preparedness and response. "Given the extraordinary efforts made in recent years to raise awareness in Iran about water scarcity and other environmental challenges, it seems only fitting to host this event here in Tehran," added Michael Talhami.

The event will include a field trip to Isfahan, where the Ministry of Energy has arranged a series of briefings with the local authorities in charge of the water and energy supplies and wastewater treatment. The field visit and briefings will form the basis for a practical case study of emergency preparedness measures and draw out further lessons for the participants.
Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 780 million people do not have access to clean water. The ICRC, whose water, sanitation and construction projects benefit more than 28 million people in over 60 conflict-affected countries, believes that there are lessons to be learned from various approaches and countries in the region, including Iran. This will help the authorities address environmental sustainability challenges and improve their emergency preparedness and response. For the ICRC, the event will ultimately help it enhance the effectiveness of its operations in the region.

For further information, please contact:
Mojgan Mohammad, ICRC Tehran, tel: +98 21 22 64 58 21 4 or +98 919 830 11 61