Sun Mar 5, 2017 11:44AM
File photo shows dust storms filling the air in the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan.
File photo shows dust storms filling the air in the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan.

Iran sends a letter to UN 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 and head of Iran's Environmental Protection Organization Masoumeh Ebtekar have signed the letter.

The region has been experiencing the problem of 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 Tigris and Euphrates rivers, 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 sandstorms. 

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 the ensuing 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 neighbors such as Afghanistan to acknowledge Iran’s right to shared water resources. He further called for regional endeavors to be made towards putting a halt to dam building.