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Iran discusses the benefits of the UNECE Water Convention

An International Workshop, “Transboundary Waters, Challenges and the Way Forward” was held in Tehran on 20 January 2013 to discuss how Iran can take advantage of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) in order to strengthen cooperation with its neighbours and improve the management of its transboundary waters.

Although Iran is characterized by an arid and semi-arid climate, with an uneven precipitation distribution, it has, in the past, had sufficient local water resources to provide for the needs of its population. However, Iran has a rapidly growing population and is now projected to be one of the 10 most populated countries in the world by 2050. The country assesses that to respond to the needs of a growing population with a rising standard of living, the water demand in 2020 may be as much as 50 per cent higher than in 2005. Therefore, transboundary waters, which represent around 10 per cent of the total water resources available in the country, are more and more important. On them depend important cities such as Mashad (2.5 million inhabitants), as well a precious ecosystems such as the Hamoon wetland.

While Iran has a long tradition of cooperation on transboundary waters and has agreements with most of its neighbours, it still faces challenges in the management of its transboundary waters, including matching water demand and supply; changing riverbeds and their implications for national frontiers; reducing pollution; protecting precious ecosystems; increasing water efficiency; and increasing resilience to climate change and to droughts and floods impacts.

The workshop underlined the importance of enhancing the implementation of existing agreements and the development of new ones. Among other actions highlighted were the need to build capacity on international water law, including the UNECE Water Convention, as well as on transboundary water resources management; promoting science and sound information for joint management and dispute resolution; the consideration of virtual water; water efficiency; and using unconventional water resources. 

Organized by the Transboundary Water Researches Centre under the Iranian Ministry of Energy, the workshop brought together some 50 participants from Iranian authorities and academia, in particular the Iranian Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Environment; representatives of other countries in the region (Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan); and representatives of the United Nations system, including the Regional Centre on Urban Water Management under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), members of the Bureau of the Water Convention from Germany and Switzerland and members of the UNECE secretariat.