Little Attention Has Been Given to the Environment in the 7th Development Plan Bill
Published: Saturday, August 12, 2023
The experts and specialists who were present at the "Investigation and Evaluation of Environmental Materials of the Seventh Development Plan Bill" conference, which was hosted by Khatam University, believed that the attention to the environment is little in this bill and there is no significance in the overall evaluation of it. There are no similarities between the quantitative statistics and the environmental conditions of the country in this bill either.
According to the website of Khatam University, the second quarterly conference of the Council of Scientific Associations of Iran titled "Investigation and Evaluation of Environmental Materials of the Seventh Development Plan Bill" with the presence of environmental experts as well as representatives from the government and the parliament was hosted by Khatam University on Wednesday, August 9th in Tehran.
The outcome of today's conference will be submitted to the parliament for the amendment of the 7th development plan bill
Dr. Majid Ghasemi, the chairman of the Council of Scientific Associations of Iran and president of Khatam University, in the opening speech of this conference, examined the bill of the 7th Development Plan from the perspective of water, energy, marine-oriented economy and the environment, and pointed out the importance of these issues. "Considering that the seventh development plan bill is now in the parliament, the Council of Scientific Associations decided to present its output to the Islamic Council in the form of holding this scientific conference as an effective solution in amending the environmental articles of this bill", he emphasized.
Referring to the environmental challenges and crises that the country is dealing with, including the loss of forests, water deficiency and land subsidence, desertification, air pollution and the loss of wetlands, he added: "Despite all these problems, in the 7th development plan bill, little attention has been paid to environmental issues."
While enumerating some of the environmental articles of this bill, including articles 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41, Ghasemi added: "Climate changes and drought in recent years have been the main factors affecting the country's water deficiency and hence, it is necessary to have special plans to deal with the negative effects of these factors."
The president of Khatam University criticized the country's insular view of water and its related issues and reminded: "Exploitation of water resources beyond their capacity, low productivity in all sectors of consumption with an emphasis on the agricultural sector, lack of a monitoring system and security for water resources, the intensification of local and regional water conflicts and the intensification of extreme hydrological phenomena such as droughts and floods are amongst our serious challenges in the water field."
Emphasizing on the importance of using technological innovations as well as social innovations to solve these challenges, the president of Pasargad Bank said: "To achieve goal number 6 of sustainable development in the country, we need one trillion dollars of investment. It is also necessary to increase the current investments at least three times."
Dr. Ghasemi also mentioned the lack of a separate chapter in the 7th development plan bill under the title of "environment as a serious gap" and demanded a fundamental revision of the bill.
Mehran Habibi Rezaei, the president of the Union of Biological Sciences Associations of Iran, while welcoming the participants in the conference, presented a brief report on the activities of this association and said: "More than 150 associations are the members of the Council of Scientific Associations of Iran, who have formed more than 18 unions. Ten unions are active out of these 18 unions."
He considered these unions very important for the country's growth and progress.
After Habibi Rezaei's speech, the first panel of the conference "Investigation and Evaluation of Environmental Materials of the Seventh Development Plan Bill" with the focus on "water and natural environment" began with the presence of panel members, Afshin Danekar; A member of the faculty of the Department of Environment, University of Tehran, Zahra Ghelichipour, a member of the faculty of the Department of Environment, Hakim Sabzevari University, and Hamidreza Rezaei, a member of the faculty of the Department of Environment, University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, and a member of the board of directors of the Biodiversity Protection Association.
Compared to the previous plans, the 7th plan bill is a setback in the field of environment
At the beginning of this meeting, Maryam Shahbazi, the head of the Biodiversity Working Group of the Union of Biological Sciences Associations of Iran, presented a report on the strengths and weaknesses of the 7th Development Plan Bill on the issue of water and natural environment.
She emphasized: "The 7th development plan bill has 24 chapters and 118 articles, but it does not have a chapter on the environment, and only 15 of its articles refer to issues related to the environment in a scattered manner. It is obviously a setback compared to the previous 6 plans."
The head of the Biodiversity Working Group of the Union of Biological Sciences Associations of Iran listed the lack of a problem-oriented approach in the drafting of this bill, the generality and ambiguity in the clauses of the proposal and the lack of executive guarantee among the serious weaknesses of the 7th Development Plan bill and added: "In article number 2 of the first chapter (economic growth) of the general policies of this plan for the agriculture sector, a 5.5% growth has been estimated. However, even now, the exploitation of water and soil resources in the field of agriculture is more than the available capacity.
The spirit of the Seventh Development Plan Bill still looks at sewage as a new water resource
In the continuation of the lectures of this panel, Banafsheh Zahraei, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Civil Engineering, University of Tehran and the Secretary of the National Working Group on Adaptation to Water Deficits addressed the requirements of development planning in the conditions of water shortages and referred to the extent of about 22 million hectares of water-deficient areas in Iran. "Natural drought , weather changes and climate changes, lack of water, water storage and the average decrease in rainfall from a third to a quarter in the country since the mid-90s are among the factors that cause water shortage in the country", she added. Zahraei also expressed her concern about the fact that the 7th Development Plan Bill still looks at sewage as a new source of water.
Our food security is completely dependent on preserving biodiversity
Hamid Zahrabi, the former deputy of the natural environment of the Environmental Protection Organization, said that our natural resources are cheap and free, and this has made any special plan which is designed based on them have an economic justification. Unfortunately, this view has caused serious damages to Iran's environment over many years.
He continued: "Our country is the 12th country in the world in terms of biodiversity and is actually among the first few countries in this regard. However, due to the future of unstable development, our country does not have good conditions in terms of protecting this biodiversity."
"Although our food security is completely dependent on preserving biodiversity, the word 'biodiversity' has been used only once throughout the 7th Development Plan Bill! Additionally, only two paragraphs of this plan are related to biodiversity, while an independent chapter for the environment should be included in the seventh development plan bill", he added.
The Seventh Development Plan Bill does not have a specific plan for the restoration of wetlands
Afshin Danekar, one of the panel members, called the collapse of wetlands a serious alarm for the country and called it equivalent to "collapse of the country" and said: "All the wetlands of the the central plateau, which covers 51% of the country's area, have dried up. Considering that, the 7th Development Plan Bill does not have a specific plan for the restoration of wetlands in the most critical environmental period of the country."
In the second panel of the conference, with a focus on "exploitation and development of the environment", Majid Makhdoom; a member of the Supreme Environmental Protection Council and the president of the Environmental Assessment Association and Helena Kaabi, one of the fficials of the comprehensive monitoring office of the Environmental Protection Organization were present.
In the first part of this panel, Maryam Shahbazi, the head of the Biodiversity Working Group of the Union of Biological Sciences Associations of Iran, presented a report on the strengths and weaknesses of the 7th Development Plan Bill on the issue of environmental exploitation and development.
Pointing to the weakness of the rulings in the area of environmental exploitation and development, she said: "Considering the importance of the issue of environment and territorial resilience, the issues of this area should be included in a separate chapter in the bill."
What dictates our development plan is the geography of our country
Reza Maknoun; A former member of the Supreme Council for Environmental Protection and an Associate Professor of the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering of Amirkabir University of Technology, referred to Iran's 75-year history in the field of developing large-scale plans and said: "What dictates our development plan is the geography of our country and any planning should pay attention to this geography."
Referring to the 40 mm decrease in average rainfall and the unprecedented increase of 2.1 degrees in the average temperature in the country, he added: "These things have caused the evaporation of water in Iran to increase by 27 billion cubic meters. In addition, the water reserves in Iran have decreased from 135 billion cubic meters to 88 billion cubic meters, and there is no forecast that indicates the improvement of this situation in the future. All the forecasts indicate the further deterioration of this situation."
Maknoon also regretted the failure to achieve the goals of the vision document 2024 in many areas, including the environment, and called for serious amendments to the bill of the 7th development plan of the country before it is approved in the parliament.
The environment is not static
Majid Makhdoom, the head of the Environmental Assessment Association and one of the members of this panel, complained about being a part of all development plans in the country, and stated that the environment is not a static environment. He emphasized the need to pay more attention to this area when developing large-scale plans.
In the continuation of the lectures of the "Environmental exploitation and development" panel, Naghme Mobarqaee Dinan; an Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences Research Institute of Shahid Beheshti University and member of the Supreme Environmental Council of the country and secretary of the Iranian Environmental Assessment Association, while reviewing the history of the country's five-year development plans after the Iran-Iraq war years, said: "In the second development plan that began in 1995, we had a legal articles related to the environmental issues, but there was no requirement to implement them. In the third program, the paragraph related to the environment was added.
The fourth program was one of the most progressive development programs in the field of environment
"In the fourth program, we faced a very favorable qualitative leap in the field of environmental protection, and it was actually one of the most progressive plans ever written in the country. At the moment, in the 7th development plan, we are facing a bill that not only has no environmental chapter, but also has no environmental spirit", she added.
Referring to the transition of the world towards a green economy, Mobarqaee mentioned the dependence of Iran's economy on oil and stated that we are one of the countries in the world where the energy consumption is very high. Attention to the environment in the 7th development plan is little and instrumental, and there is no correlation between quantitative statistics and the environmental conditions of the country in this bill.
The package proposed by the Environmental Protection Organization to the Parliament
Ahmadreza Lahijanzadeh, the Director General of Environmental Protection of Isfahan Province and the former official for the follow-up and implementation of the policies announced by the Supreme Leader in the field of environment, pointed out the current critical state of the country's environment in various sectors and the neglect of the 7th Development Plan. He called these crises and announced the development of a package proposed by the Environmental Protection Organization with the aim of eliminating the gaps in this plan in the field of environment.
He also said: "Fortunately, we have been able to persuade a number of respected members of the parliament to review the water, energy, transportation, agriculture and environment sections of this bill and we hope that the bill will be ready to benefit from with the amendments we need. A proposal that includes 150 pages will go to the public forum of the parliament and the good news is that our proposed text has now reached the Parliament's Consolidation Commission."
In this panel, Somayye Rafiei, the head of the environment faction, water and agriculture commission of the Islamic Parliament also expressed her satisfaction with holding this scientific and professional conference and at the sae time complained about its delays.
No construction can be built on a weak foundation
Stating that Rafiei and other members of the parliament's environment faction are pleased to gather together with many other experts in the field of environment to give their points of view in this conference, emphasized that no construction would be sustainable on a weak foundation. She also said: "Most of the people who come to us are dissatisfied with the presence of mines in their areas."
This member of parliament also complained about the lack of presence of the Environmental Protection Organization in the organizations where laws and bills related to the environment are reviewed and approved, such as the Expediency Council.
The good news of the head of the environment faction of the parliament for environmentalists
The head of the environment faction of the parliament announced the approval of 3 strong single articles under article 22 of the 7th development plan bill in order to provide the opinions of experts and those concerned about the environment and said: "I also promise to add the chapter on the environment to the plan."
By announcing that a legal article has been approved in the field of air pollution and the right of wetlands was taken into consideration for the first time in the water allocation table, Rafiei asked the experts in the field of environment to give their last comments within maximum a week for this bill amendments.
According to this report, the second quarterly conference of the Council of Scientific Associations of Iran titled "Investigation and Evaluation of Environmental Materials of the Seventh Development Plan Bill" ended with the reading of the final statement.
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