Blog post

New ideas on governance for nature conservation in Iran!

Published on
March 2, 2023

The following blog is written by Mohsen Soleymani Roozbahani of Tehran University, who is currently a guest researcher with FNP.

Over 8,200 species of plants, 197 species of mammals, 535 species of birds, 227 species of reptiles, 21 species of amphibians, 160 species of freshwater fishes and 710 species of marine fishes in an area covering 164.8 million hectares show the complex and diverse climates, topography, geological formations and a varied and unique biological diversity in a country like Iran.

Meanwhile, the country is also suffering from environmental issues like water scarcity, air pollution, sand and dust storms, desertification, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and climate change impacts. These issues affect not only the biodiversity but the daily life of people as shown in the following examples. In 2016, the Iranian cities of Zabol, Bushehr and Ahvaz were among the most air polluted in the world due to sand and dust storm phenomenons. Forests covered some 19 million hectares of Iran in 1900, shrank to 14.4 million by 2012 and to 10.7 million 2015. While water scarcity is the main challenge for many areas in Iran, desertification threatens 18 of Iran’s 31 provinces and 97 of its cities.

Above photo: Sand and dust storm in Hamoun Wetlands (border of Iran and Afghanistan). Photo top: Damavand Mountain in Mazadaran Province, northern Iran
Above photo: Sand and dust storm in Hamoun Wetlands (border of Iran and Afghanistan). Photo top: Damavand Mountain in Mazadaran Province, northern Iran
  • We may not succeed in environment conservation and moving toward sustainable development, if we do not have good understanding of governance mechanism and if we do not provide solutions for a gradual shift in Governance mechanisms.
  • We need to find out innovative solution for a common and understandable language with politician, decision makers, private sector and civil society to modify governance mechanisms toward saving our environment.
  • The solutions need to be context based and practical!

The above notions – in addition to the unique, diverse and fragile nature of Iran in the semi-arid region of the Middle East and the urgent need to address interconnected environmental challenges in Iran in Iran - were my initial motivation to apply and start my Ph.D. studies in the University of Tehran. The main purpose of my research is to address environmental issues in the context of governance mechanisms of the country through development and verification of a governance model/approach in which environmental priorities and sustainable management of the natural resources operate as the main drivers. ‘Nature-based solutions’ along with other innovative and participatory tools would provide a creative platform for a pragmatic and gradual shift to the new change. This would also support the main stakeholders and the key players to move from current governance approaches to improved governance mechanisms for securing and considering environmental concerns in local, regional and national development plans.

After having worked as a sustainable development practitioner and project manager in the past 20 years in several environment and development projects and fulfilling my studies in The University of Tehran for three years, it is an excellent and unique opportunity to be with the Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group of Wageningen University and Research and in a country like The Netherlands. This position enables me to meet scholars and senior experts, as well as visit projects and protected areas to better understand and discuss governance theories in line with nature conservation and to deepen my knowledge on governance mechanisms and instruments toward developing the proposed model in my hypothesis! During my stay in FNP, I will be completing my review on governance theories and a more concrete review on related nature-based solutions, after which a schematic proposed model of nature-oriented governance will be gradually developed in consultation with experts and scholars both in WUR and Tehran University. This will then be ready for feedback and simulation tests in a selected area in Iran.