The first meeting of the Steering Committee of the project “Enhancing integrated natural resource management for the restoration of wetland ecosystems and support to alternative livelihoods development of local communities” with the presence of the Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment (DoE), Deputy Marine Environment and Wetlands, members of the Steering Committee, representatives of the European Commission, UNDP, and the acting national manager of the Sistan project, was held on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, at the DoE.
Ali Salajegheh, head of the DoE, wished success in implementing the Sistan project, saying: “We attach special importance to international issues” and stressed that “international interaction in such meetings is a necessity.” Fortunately, the EU has valuable experiences, and we have seen good communication at various levels of the EU. Good results and experiences have been achieved to serve as a model to other parts of the world.
He also pointed to the potential of hardworking, honest, and warm-hearted people with valuable backgrounds in the Sistan region and added: with the extensive indigenous knowledge in the Sistan region, one can use these potentials for water, soil, vegetation, and climate management and led them in the right direction. Particular attention should be paid to the region, including the Sistan project.
The Vice President continued: “I thank all the stakeholders who have cooperated with the DoE in this international project, including the executive bodies, government agencies, and other bodies, and I ask them to be present along with the members of the steering committee and accompany them to witness the prosperity and development of the region until the end of this project.”.
Lahijanzadeh, Deputy Minister of Marine Environment and Wetlands and National Director of Sistan Project, while pointing to the problems and limitations that coincided with the start of the Sistan project with the Covid-19 pandemic, admired the efforts and seriousness of the DoE in the proper implementation of this project to develop Sistan.
He added, “Sistan is one of the regions that has been severely affected by climate change. Due to one of the most extensive freshwater wetlands globally, this region has been where humanity’s ancient civilizations formed. But there are many problems for this valuable ecosystem, resulting in dust storms, local migration, and economic issues.
“In response to climate change, the European Union has adopted a seven-year strategy in priority areas to address environmental issues such as climate, renewable energy, and deforestation,” said Sarah Rinaldi, Head of the EU’s Middle East and Central Asia Division. “Sistan is also one of these critical areas.
She also referred to the current situation in Afghanistan and its challenges to the Sistan project. She confirmed that European Union is committed to its commitments. While expressing satisfaction with the activities of the Sistan project technical team, Rinaldi appreciated and thanked the Islamic Republic of Iran for supporting the project and forming a steering committee at the level of senior managers.
“The baseline studies of Sistan have been completed, and we can use it to answer many problems in the region,” said Claudio Providas, UNDP Resident Representative in Iran. A systematic and rooted approach to the issue is essential. This project is not just about Hamoun Wetland; It encompasses the entire surrounding ecosystem and women, youth, jobs, livelihoods, and economic diversity.
He also noted that he is in touch with his counterparts in Afghanistan and that people on both sides of the border are looking for environmentally sustainable solutions.
Providas considered the two issues of renewable energy and waste as essential issues in the Sistan region and said we follow the connection of rural markets to the local market using digital facilities.
Next, Neda Asad Falsafizadeh, Sistan project acting national manager, reported on the project’s performance in 2020 and 2021 and the measures envisaged next year. She pointed to 14 practical project actions under the three main components of capacity building and coordination, sustainable water and soil management, and development of the local economy.
She said that over the past one and a half years, the project team has been trying to draw up strategic planning and roadmaps for the project, including two basic project actions, including baseline studies in three areas: economic, social and environmental, and preparing a cohesion and social mobilization action plan. They have been used to extract the comparative advantages and potentials of the region. Also, one of the results of this work was determining and selecting the pilot villages of the project with the participation of all project stakeholders.
She also mentioned other projects such as CEPA basic studies program for capacity building in the region, providing equipment for wetland residents, climate change studies, wind, solar, and bioenergy renewable energy studies, solutions to deal with the adverse effects of dust during 4 priority actions, integrated and sustainable land use management program with emphasis on the development of sustainable livelihoods in the region, signing of a multilateral memorandum of understanding for an innovative and integrated platform for sustainable development of Sistan, marketing studies, low-value grants, uploading the project news on the bilingual website and procurement and production of promotional items for the visibility of the project.
Sistan Project Steering Committee consists of managers and deputies of relevant ministries and government organizations, including Sistan and Baluchestan Governorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Jihad Agriculture, Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare, Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism and the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade.
The purpose of these meetings is to present the report on the performance of the Sistan project and planned programs to the members of the committee, and to discuss and exchange views in this regard. Meetings of the Project Steering Committee are held every six months in the presence of representatives of the European Union, the United Nations Development Program and the Department of Environment as co-chairs and members of the Project Steering Committee.
The Sistan project is a joint project between the Department of Environment and the United Nations Development Program, which started with the European Union fund in 2020 with a five-year vision.