Iran asks UN for regional forum on particulates


File photo shows particulates filling the air in the southwestern province of Khouzestan

Iran sends a letter to the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to urge creation of a regional task force to address the pressing issue of dust storms plighting the region.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday the letter will be sent to the UN chief later in the day. 
Zarif as well as Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian, head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization Masoumeh Ebtekar have signed the letter.
The region has been experiencing the problem dust storms since more than a decade ago when neighboring Turkey launched its Southeastern Anatolia Project, also known as GAP.
Under the project, Turkey built 22 dams over the parts of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, which run across its territory. The rivers also traverse Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
According to statistics, the project has reduced the water flow in the rivers’ basin by 34 percent, causing 94 percent of the Mesopotamia to dry up, and thus unleashing sandstorms onto the southwestern Iran province of Khuzestan.
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Also contributing to the situation has been domestic mismanagement and inadequacy of water flow from cross-border resources towards Iranian wetlands. The latter source has caused the country’s border province of Sistan and Baluchestan to also experience particulates.
The task force is expected to enlist the assistance of regional countries towards eradicating the problem.
Zarif, who was addressing a high-level meeting on the issue, said regional cooperation on the matter stalled in 2011 due to terrorism and militancy, which began engulfing neighboring Iraq and Syria. 
The warfare and ensuring destruction has also contributed to the exacerbation of the problem, he said, but noted that the Islamic Republic will keep up its efforts to rally regional efforts towards addressing it.
Chitchian, meanwhile, urged that that neighbors such as Afghanistan acknowledge Iran’s right to shared water resources, and that regional endeavor be invested towards putting a halt to the dam building, which was taking place as part of the GAP.

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