Tabriz, South Azerbaijan, Nov 6
UNPO submitted a report on Iran to UPR Info, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This report is published three years after the Islamic Republic’s last UPR review in 2014 and looks at the country’s dismal record when it comes to environmental rights in particular. Environmental issues in Iran are inherently political and often intertwined with human rights abuses. By manipulating domestic water, the Iranian regime is triggering an environmental disaster that could lead to violent conflict, mass migration, and food crisis. Minorities are the hardest hit and find themselves disenfranchised from the decision-making process on environmental issues.
The Iranian Parliament approved the ‘Law on the Sixth Five-Year Economic, Cultural, and Social Development Plan for the 1396-1400 (2016-2021)’. One of the targets is to reduce water consumption by 30 percent and to produce 30 percent of the required potable water for southern Iran through desalination. Paradoxically, despite the acceptance of the recommendation 138.263 of the last UPR, Iran’s water exploitation in 2015 reached up to 97 percent of Iran’s surface water. Today, 70 percent of Iran’s groundwater reserves are depleted. The case of Lake Urmia, a saline lake located in South Azerbaijan region between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan in Iran, reflects a wider trend in the country. Several other bodies of water have also been heavily impacted or dried up entirely in light of weak infrastructure, over-reliance on dams, extreme weather patterns, climatic changes, poor irrigation practices and unregulated use of water.
Environmental issues in Iran mainly affect minority-inhabited regions. The Urmia lack of inclusivity in the decision-making process fosters the gap between center and peripheries in terms of policy impacts. Minority-inhabited territories are generally rich in resources and agricultural potential, but exploitative policies coupled with water mismanagement have serious impacts countrywide and are severely affecting the living condition of minorities. This mismanagement and negligence leading to an environmental crisis also has other detrimental impacts and contributes to food insecurity, mass migration, health hazards, soil deterioration, and desertification.
Against this background, the UPR mid-term report UNPO submitted is an occasion to urge the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to consider the following recommendations:
- to replace existing customary systems or original common law principles with written rules which will facilitate the most rational use of available water through appropriate administrative actions in collaboration with ethnic minorities;
- to adopt a long-term, adequate, consistent, and inclusive strategy for environmental protection that stays consistent with the renewal of parliamentary members every four years;
- to establish adequate water administration for effective implementation and enforcement of the provisions contained in the water laws;
- to increase efforts to include minority representatives in the process of policy and decision-making to address environmental issues and enhance sustainable solutions;
- to end the persecution of environmental activists and engage with a legitimate representative of minority communities;
- to be open to discussion with multiple stakeholders, including civil society minority organizations, as well as environmental minority activists, and to provide them with capacity building training.