Iran Tackles Pollution in the Caspian Sea

By Connor J. Wangler

The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest enclosed body of water, often referred to as the world’s largest lake. It is bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. It is also the focus of one of the latest international entanglements that the Islamic Republic finds itself caught up in.

“Over the last two decades, the Caspian has become increasingly exposed to the risk of pollution…” a statement from the UN Information Center says according to Payvand News. Speaking to Payvand News, Reza Pourgholam, the head of the Caspian Sea Ecological Research Institute, claimed that the pollution levels in the Caspian Sea had reached a critical level. According to Pourgholam, ninety-five percent of the pollution comes from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.

This is why Abdol-Reza Karbasi, Deputy Head of Iran’s Environmental Protection in Marine Environment, said that Tehran would be lodging a complaint in international courts against Azerbaijan. Discussing the matter with the Tehran Times, Karbasi said that a large source of the pollution is the Azeri oil platforms operated by British Petroleum (BP). Iran claims that BP has been dumping oil waste into the Sea for many years and that in the last four months of 2012, twenty-five tons of it were removed from Iranian coasts.


The Islamic Republic, however, is not entirely absolved of blame in this problem. According to a piece done by Payvand News,  Iran is responsible for at least five percent of pollution into the Caspian Sea. Most of this comes from agricultural waste, such as fertilizers and pesticides, running off from coastal agriculture projects.

Here is a piece done by the BBC regarding Iranian contributions to the Caspian pollution problem:

Iranian sewage adds to Caspian Sea pollution

Source: National Geoscience Database of IRAN

The people tasked with trying to fix this problem, Iran’s Department of Environment, are aware of its severity. Unfortunately, their efforts are fairly recent and their operating budgets are extremely small. One project that the government feels has been quite successful is aimed towards children. The Department of Environment created a series of children’s DVDs aimed at teaching the effects of pollution. Said Fadgepor, an Iranian environmental official speaking to NPR, says the best way to teach adults is to start with their kids.

Another project developed that will help with this issue of water pollution is the Joint Iran-United Nations Environment Programme/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNEP/OCHA) Environment Unit. This unit is working towards creating a Iranian Environmental Emergencies Centre. The Centre would respond to all kinds of environmental disasters, from natural disasters to manmade emergencies. In this specific instance, it would respond to increasingly dangerous amounts of pollution in the Caspian Sea by directing greater resources from national and international entities to the region.


2 thoughts on “Iran Tackles Pollution in the Caspian Sea

  1. A spokesman for BP, when asked about Iran’s threatened legal action, said that the oil company had committed to report any problems with their operations to the Azeri government and that no problems had occurred for many years. BP sent out an email statement to local and international news outlets that said, “We are a responsible operator in the Caspian and as such we have rigorous HSE (Health, Safety, Environment) processes and procedures in place in line with international standards.” (Quote Source:

    It seems that Iran has not yet taken action on the issue and no official legal complaints have been filed in international courts.

    -Connor J. Wangler

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