Signing Ceremony of the Exchange of Notes between FAO and the Government of Japan
on the “Integrated Programme for Sustainable Water Resources Management in the Lake Urmia Basin”
Statement by Mr Serge Nakouzi
FAO Representative to the Islamic Republic of Iran
and to the Economic Cooperation Organization
Tehran, 9 March 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be present this morning at the Embassy of Japan here in Tehran for the signing of the Exchange of Notes between Japan and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in support of the “Integrated Programme for Sustainable Water Resources Management in the Lake Urmia Basin”.
For several decades, Japan has been amongst FAO’s foremost partners in sustainable development programmes aimed at securing a world free from hunger and caring for the earth. Japan’s support has been unwavering to the advancement of FAO’s work across the globe, both as one of the major contributors to the Organization’s regular programme and extra-budgetary funds as well as a source of valuable expertise in, amongst other fields, sustainable agriculture, fisheries, forestry, water resources management, adaptation to climate change and the conservation of biodiversity. The Government of Japan’s commitment and engagement in the Organization’s activities addressing the complex challenges of food security and the safeguarding and sustainable management of environmental natural resources and ecosystems, has not only been instrumental but it has also reflected the profound values Japan retains in pursuing an active role to assist nations in protecting the earth’s environment and their respective natural resources.
Today’s event is quite auspicious. It ushers the beginning of a strengthened partnership between Japan, FAO and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in addressing some of these pressing challenges that are presently facing the historic lands of Iran. It marks a concrete step in transforming the existing and longstanding global cooperation between FAO and the Government of Japan on environment protection and sustainable development to a tangible framework of engagement here at the country level in support of Iran and to assist the country in rehabilitating one of the most symbolic natural landmarks - Lake Urmia.
Through its generous contribution, Japan will enable FAO to lend its technical expertise, as a multidisciplinary specialized international technical agency, to partner with the Lake Urmia Restoration Programme and national stakeholders on an integrated and comprehensive programme for the rehabilitation of the lake basin.
This lake basin has an enormous environmental value and harbours a most unique ecosystem biodiversity and services. It was in view of this that it was registered in 1977 as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Site and was designated as a National Park by the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran. The significance of the lake basin is also in the livelihood of local communities, the over 5 million people that inhabit the area, the contribution that they make to both the local and national economy.
Given the degradation to which the lands surrounding the basin and the lake itself have succumbed to over the past several years and which have rendered the situation quite critical, the launching of the “Integrated Programme” to be funded by Japan is quite timely.
In the light of the findings of the rapid assessment conducted by FAO experts in February 2015, the “integrated programme for Sustainable Water Resources Management in the Lake Urmia Basin” will apply methodologically comprehensive, empirically sound and socio-economically viable measures that are founded on a participatory approach of local communities.
We are of the firm conviction that to redress the predicament faced in the management of the natural resources of the Urmia Lake area, a more holistic approach would be needed, guided by the requisite technical expertise that define a sustainable solution deriving from a comprehensive intervention on the different dimensions of the this problem.
FAO for its part will lend its broad and extensive technical expertise in assessing water supply management, quantifying the related demand advising on the management and optimization of the allocation of water resources. The Organization retains a unique comparative advantage in addressing issues pertaining to the sustainable management of water resources, particularly in this region where the water resources of countries are predominantly used in agriculture.
Together with the Urmia Lake Restoration Programme and national stakeholders, we shall strive within the framework of the four-year integrated programme lifecycle to implement a series of immediate measures needed to address the primary causes of water depletion in the lake itself and in its surrounding basin. The activities under this project will commence in April 2016 and will create a unique platform for stakeholder collaboration toward more precise water accounting, enhanced agriculture productivity, more sustainable livelihoods, drought monitoring and warning and capacity building. Special emphasis will be given to the inclusion of valuable alternative income-generation scenarios and employment options, cropping system revisions, and value chain improvement for farmers, rural population, and other socio-economic entities, to achieve pre-determine target of water consumption reduction.
Whilst reiterating our gratitude to the Government of Japan, Ambassador Kobayashi and his team here at the Embassy of Japan, for all their support in making this possible, FAO looks forward to forging a fruitful collaboration with Japan, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Urmia Lake Restoration Programme and national stakeholders to strive towards making tangible strides in rehabilitating the Lake Urmia basin, endowing healthier ecosystems and supporting the welfare of the local communities, to secure a brighter future for the basin.