Conservation of Iranian Wetlands
|Why is it important?
Wetlands provide services of great value to society; they control floods, protect coastal zones and they host a great diversity of species. The cultural and economical importance of wetlands to indigenous communities is beyond words. That is why a special international treaty – the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands – has been established by governments and NGOs.
The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Iran possesses a large number and a wide variety of wetlands, whose significance for global biodiversity is unparalleled in the region. These range from the inlets and marshes of the Caspian lowlands to the natural inland delta of Sistan; from the vast salt lakes of the central plateau to the Mesopotamian deltas at the head of Persian Gulf, and from the lakes of Turkman steppes to the tidal mangroves and mudflats of the Persian Gulf cast. Iran supports 63 wetlands that meet one or more Ramsar criteria for international importance.
The sustainable management of biodiversity and wetlands is an important part to sustainable human development and central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and in particular MDG 7, which is to ensure environmental sustainability.
What is our goal?
The goal of this project is to help create an enabling environment and conditions that provide for recovery and development of Iran’s wetland areas. To face the challenge of social awareness and participation, the project aims to improve the socio-economic situation of the local communities by applying a participatory approach in establishing alternative livelihoods. The Project also intends to ensure the sustainability of Iran’s system of wetland protected areas, thereby serving as a tool for conserving globally significant biodiversity. These goals will result in better condition for the local environment, better opportunities for future generations and sustainable development.
How will we reach it?
This project aims to systematically remove or substantially decreasethreats facing globally significant biodiversity and sustainability at two demonstration sites – Uromiyeh and Parishan Lakes, while ensuring that the lessons learned through these demonstrations are absorbed within wetland protected area management systems throughout Iran. In addition to the two pilot sites, the Department of Environment decided to expand the project add a third site in Lake Shadegan in Khuzestan Province, under the same project fund, the Management Plan of which was approved in 2011.
The Lake Uromiyeh is a vast hypersaline lake in the northwestern Iran. There are more than 36 cities and 3,150 villages with more than 5 million inhabitants. The Lake is a National Park ranked among the largest Iranian Ramsar sites, and a UNESCO declared Biosphere Reserve.
The Lake Parishan is a shallow but permanent lake, having a maximum area of 4,200 ha. The lake is encircled by 18 villages which are largely agricultural with crops including wheat, barley and various vegetables. Agriculture in the area depends on water pumped from the lake.
Lake Shadegan lies at the downstream reach of the Jarrahi River at the head of the Persian Gulf in South-west of Iran. This wetland is internationally recognized due to its high animal biodiversity and so far about 311 animal species has been identified in the vicinity of the wetland. The three big cities of Shadegan, Abadan and Mahshar are close to this wetland. The major threats to the wetland include the inflow of the drainages, water pollution, reduction of the floodwater inflow, long term climate change/drought, the introduction of nonnative species, the leakage of petroleum materials form the pipes and disturbance for the wild life.
These wetlands are surrounded by a number of important freshwater- brackish satellite wetlands.
The project applies participatory approaches to the protection and sustainable use of wetland ecosystems, by using the Lake Uromiyeh Basin, Parishan Lake, and Shadegan Lake as pilot sitesIn addition, the project aims to reach a wide range of stakeholders by providing training in ecosystem planning and management for target groups such as the local communities, the national park service personnel and managers.
What have we achieved?
The project has been successful in recognizing the integrated nature of biodiversity through an ecosystem approach, as well as putting in place inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms marked by the adoption of a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Department of Environment, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Governor Generals of the involved provinces. This MoU stresses the importance of mainstreaming biodiversity in development planning decisions around the Lake Uromiyeh Water Basin.
Both at the Lake Uromiyeh and Lake Parishan areas, environmentally conscious management plans have been devised. Later, the Lake Shadegan was identified as the third project site in 2011. The plans are integrated and multi-stakeholder in nature, thus allowing for coordination and cooperation among stakeholders. The project has carried out a number of ecological, socio-economic and hydrological studies that provide for better understanding of environmental issues and delineate the boundaries of wetland areas. Several training workshops have been conducted on biodiversity conservation, integrated planning, wetland area mapping for various groups of stakeholders from professionals and field officers of the Department of Environment to local NGOs and communities.
One of the key strategies in this project is the application of a participatory approach to development. This entails the active participation of the local communities in the planning and implementation of an integrated wetland management plan. The project has a steering committee and number of technical committees that provide overall and technical guidance to project activities.
In 2008, in lieu of evolving critical situation in the environs of the Lake Uromiyeh, UNDP in consultation with the government added a “drought” component to the project with primary focus on integrated drought risk management to supplement the on-going activities funded by GEF. The Lake is facing critical threat to its existence on account of continuous drought, decreasing water levels and increasing salinity. The newly added component should help develop critical knowledge on climate change and its impacts on micro-climates, persistent droughts and bio-diversity. It will also allow for effective drought risk management for sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity in the environs of Lake Uromiyeh. The project has had Integrated Management Plans with an ecosystem-based, participatory, approach approved and adopted by the Provincial Planning Council of Khuzestan for the Shadegan Wetland in 2011. The Lake Parishan (LP) and the Lake Uromieh (LU) Management Plans were approved and adopted at cabinet level in 2010. For these two sites, 30-35% of the plans have been already implemented.
Management structures have been put in place at national, provincial and local levels for the implementation of all Management Plans. These structures are inter-sectoral and are composed of key stakeholders, including representatives from governors’ office, water authorities, the Ministry of Agriculture, Local communities and NGOs.
The project has also conducted numerous trainings, capacity development and public awareness programs to all stakeholders on ecosystem approach as a tool for participatory development and implementation of integrated management plan for wetlands. Target groups were experts and representatives from various governmental and non-governmental sectors including the Department of Environment, Water authority, Agriculture organization, Governor Offices, NGOs at national, provincial and local levels as well as local communities. All of these trainings are being mainstreamed through building partnership with the University of Environment, DoE Natural Environment and Education deputies to introduce and implement integrated management plans and ecosystem based approaches for the wetlands ecosystems.; the target groups for first stage being university students as well as DoE experts. The project is producing a toolkit for zoning, management plans, baseline studies, institutional mechanisms, etc. to introduce it in the Department of Environment and other key stakeholder organizations.
Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Report 2012
NATIONAL MDG FOCUS
Ensure environmental sustainability
PROJECT AT A GLANCE
Conservation of Iranian Wetlands
Lake Uromiyeh (West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan and Kordestan Provinces)
Department of Environment
Ministry of Interior
Ministry of Energy
Local NGOs and