Decades of US sanctions have severely hampered Iran’s efforts to address environmental challenges that could alter the country’s economic, social and political landscape.

Air and water pollution, desertification, land degradation, climate change and loss of biodiversity are among the pressing environmental challenges in Iran.

Although the impact of US sanctions has been widely documented, very little has been said about the myriad of challenges they pose to the already deteriorating environment in the Islamic Republic.

Researchers at the Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London recognize that sanctions do not independently cause environmental degradation in a target country, but the secondary impacts of sanctions can inadvertently act as “catalysts” that lead to environmental degradation. to environmental problems.

Shirin Hakim, a doctoral student at Imperial College London who studies the impact of sanctions on Iran’s environment, says the sanctions have gone so far as to target critical sectors of the country’s economy, such as energy, shipping, automotive, aviation and financial sectors, which are crucial for sustainable development and human prosperity.

“As a result of the sanctions, Iran has effectively been separated from the international banking system and many of its crucial assets have been frozen overseas,” Hakim told Anadolu news agency.

In addition, the sanctions against Iran have contributed to the devaluation of its local currency, rising inflation rates and a significant drop in foreign direct investment, as many international companies leading in technology and technology experts in sustainable development fear entering Iran at the risk of sanctions from Iran. the United States. ”

Loss of biodiversity

At a time when the Iranian capital is blanketed in a thick layer of smog, attention has once again been focused on the serious environmental challenges facing the country.

Tehran is now among the ten most polluted cities in the world. However, pollution is not the only obstacle to sustainable development in Iran.

“The water scarcity has entered a critical phase, in part due to decades of isolation, poor management of local resources and the consequences of prolonged drought,” Hakim said.

Iran’s agricultural sector, she argues, depends on “outdated technology and knowledge”, both of which hamper the country’s ability to effectively manage its changing landscape.

The alarming rise in pollution levels in Tehran, she said, is due to “shoddy oil activity and heavy industrial activity,” while dust and sandstorms have also contributed.

“Iran is in the midst of a significant loss of biodiversity, land degradation, water pollution and desertification,” Hakim warns.

Experts believe that Iran’s environmental future can be protected and preserved through the collaboration of the public and private sectors. However, the sanctions are a spoiler.

“When a country fights against sanctions, the bare essentials such as food supply, medical care and maintaining the local economy become priorities, and issues such as the environment lose their importance,” explains Hakim.

“As a result, we find that the percentage of the national budget devoted to environmental efforts in Iran has decreased, leaving less funding for biodiversity conservation.

“Operating with fewer economic resources makes it increasingly difficult for the government not only to hire, but also to provide employees with the monitoring equipment and technologies necessary to preserve biodiversity,” she said.

In 2014, funding for a grant of more than $ 7.6 million for several multi-year projects developed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a subsidiary of the World Bank, was blocked due to US sanctions. . This funding was intended to cover biodiversity conservation projects in Iran.

Urgent measures

With the Donald Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, dealing with environmental issues has become more difficult, says Hakim.

However, Iran must fully recognize the trade-offs between its economy and its environment.

“Much can be done to protect the environment by increasing the education and accountability of the general public, giving it greater

budgetary allocations for environmental efforts and the promotion of the efficient use of natural resources, ”explains the researcher.

Hakim believes that addressing Iran’s spatial distribution issues to reduce pressure on parts of the country and enforce existing environmental regulations may also help the effort.

She believes that less attention is paid to the impact of sanctions on the environment, as the association is not direct and more difficult to identify than other impacts directly related to the economic crisis, such as unemployment.

“Nonetheless, as we live in a world where the use of economic coercion and trade wars is on the increase and the fight against climate change is recognized as an issue of shared global importance, I imagine that more Much attention will be paid to the impact of economic tools, such as sanctions, on sustainable development, ”says Hakim.

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