Countdown to Mesopotamian Water Forum Virtual Assembly: Local Assembly of Iran

From 16-17 May 2020 the Virtual Assembly of the Mesopotamian Water Forum will take place online. 1 year after the first Mesopotamian Water Forum held in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, water movements and civil society organizations from Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – the four states of the Tigris-Euphrates basin – will take part in 2 days of discussion and debate, joined by other internationals. Since the Virtual Assembly will be held in English, participating activists from the Mesopotamian region will organize local virtual assemblies in local languages, to prepare for the main regional discussion. In this series, we will provide summaries of each local assembly, prior to the main Virtual Assembly taking place from 16-17 May.

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Mesopotamian Water Forum Local Assembly of Iran, 24 April 2020

The local assembly of Iran, held prior to the main Virtual Assembly of the Mesopotamian Water Forum, was held online. Several participants from various regions of Iran too part and discussed how environmental issues are generally overlooked by policymakers and require more investment. Existing water resources in Iran need to be recovered, while new sources need to be explored. Excessive consumption of water remains one of the main issues. Raising awareness among the general population on this topic is important.

The assembly participants discussed the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on water resources. One effect is the pollution caused by sanitizers and disinfectants on water quality and aqua systems. Additionally, throughout the lockdown, several water project transfers were commenced which were not confirmed yet (participants noted the case of Behesht Abad tunnel). Some people see a lack of transparency in this case. Besides the Covid-19 crisis, Iran has suffered from the negative impacts of international sanctions. The assembly discussed the ecological and environmental impacts of sanctions. Indirectly, capital has been directed into the hands of military forces, who regard development of natural resources as a source of revenue. Investments have been made in short-term projects, without considering the long-term effects on the environment. An example are water transfer projects. Decision-making power is in the hands of one actor. Due to this monopoly, there is no pressure or incentive to improve quality of water resources, laying a heavy burden on the environmental capacity of the country.

Participants agreed that local associations and organizations can instigate a dialogue with authorities to influence water policies at the local level, even if these are often proposed at regional and national level.

As for the Mesopotamian Water Forum, the idea of a regional water parliament was discussed by the assembly participants, a proposal which was put forward by Iranian participants in the first edition of the Mesopotamian Water Forum in 2019. Another proposal was to create a network of ‘waterkeepers’, as for example the waterkeeper organisation of Kurdistan-Iraq. They can be in charge of advocating for the protection of water resources including surface and groundwaters, as well as transboundary water issues. The network can advocate with authorities to change their approach regarding water policies, towards a rights-based approach. This could include taking legal action against authorities with the framework of national and international law.

The Virtual Assembly of the Mesopotamian Water Forum will take place from 16-17 May. Register here.

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