1121 GMT January 23, 2018
Iran’s capital Tehran will host a conference in July to discuss the problem of dust storms, which has plagued the country in recent years.
The forum, titled the ‘International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms; Challenges and Practical Solutions,’ will be held July 3-5, IRNA reported.
Representatives from over 30 countries will participate in the conference. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, two deputies of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and a number of ministers from different countries are scheduled to attend the three-day international event, the executive secretary of the conference Yousef Rashidi said in a press conference on Saturday.
The conference will be hosted by Iran’s Department of Environment and the Foreign Ministry, with the cooperation of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat as well as the UN Environment and the UN Development Program.
In March, Iran sent a letter to the UN secretary general, calling for creation of a regional task force to address the pressing issue of dust storms plighting the region.
The region has been experiencing the problem of dust storms since a decade ago when neighboring Turkey launched its Southeastern Anatolia Project, also known as GAP.
Under the project, Turkey built 22 dams over parts of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which run across its territory. The rivers also traverse Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
According to statistics, the project has reduced water flow in the rivers’ basin by 34 percent, causing 94 percent of Mesopotamia to dry up, and thus unleashing sandstorms onto the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan.
Earlier this month, an Iranian official urged active diplomacy with Turkey towards tackling the problem of dust storms, which chronically blight regional states as a result of Ankara’s massive dam building projects.
Hedayat Fahmi of Iran’s Energy Ministry said Turkey was exacerbating the situation by continuing to build more dams, leaving more parched river basins which become new breeding grounds for dust storms.
Expert projections, Fahmi said, hold that the Middle East would be losing as much as 10 percent of its water resources by 2045. Over the same period, the demand for water in the region would increase by 60 percent, he said, adding this could even lead to regional wars.
“To tackle the problem of fine particles in the country, the four countries are needed to interact and engage in water diplomacy toward ensuring their entitlement to joint water resources,” Fahmi said.