Iran’s share of UN dust storm budget meager

Financial Tribune- A large portion of the United Nations’ budget for combating dust storms and desertification is allocated to Africa while Middle Eastern countries, which are also struggling with drought and dust storms, receive a minuscule share.

“Located in the Middle East and close to Northern Africa, Iran is the focal point of many natural disasters,” said Reza Shahbazi, director of the scheme to combat dust storms at the Geographical Survey of Iran.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is tasked with combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification—particularly in Africa— through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.

According to Shahbazi, the battle with drought and dust storms in Iran, as well as neighboring countries such as Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, has been overshadowed by Africa’s climate issues, the GSI website reported.

Pointing to the growth in the domestic sources of dust storms, the official said local sources contribute to 80% of particulate matters found in dust storms, while only 20% originate outside the country’s borders.

He attributed this to “years of drought and gross mismanagement of water resources”.

The GSI is a member of the National Convention to Combat Dust Storms and in charge of preparing maps, updating reports and sampling active and potential sources of dust in the country.

“Based on GSI’s studies, 35,000 square kilometers, i.e. 10% of the country’s area, have been identified as potential and active sources of dust storms,” Shahbazi declared.

Studies are still in progress to update the organization’s data. So far, the specifications of Khuzestan Province’s dust particles have been determined and registered through sampling and analyzing sediment models.

Severe dust storms have been hitting the western and southwestern provinces over the past weeks creating challenges in urban services as well as environmental and sanitary problems.

Khuzestan has been the most severely-hit province, where multiple cities have experienced occasional water and power outages, leading to peaceful protests by the locals demanding the government’s attention.

Despite the severity of the problem, however, the budget allocated for schemes to reduce dust storm hotspots is only 170 billion rials ($4.44 million)—a far cry from the 17 trillion rials ($444 million) estimated by environmental experts.

Iran will host a UN conference on dust storms later this year, where representatives of 50 nations are expected to attend.

DOE and the United Nations Environment Programme announced last year that a joint effort to combat dust storms, whose details have not yet been revealed, will be funded by the Global Environment Fund.