iN THE NEWS

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Central Asia's Most Precious Resource: Water

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: From Tashkent, Helena Fraser, the UN resident coordinator for Uzbekistan, participated in the discussion. From Colombo, Sri Lanka, we were joined by senior researcher at the International Water Management Institute, Soumya Balasubramanya. From Washington, D.C., environmental activist and former deputy chief at Iran’s Department of Environment, Kaveh Madani, took part in the discussion on water management in Central Asia. moderated by the RFE/RL's Media-Relations Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir.

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The Middle East’s Authoritarians Have Come for Conservationists

The Atlantic: “You can like the government or hate the government. You can be religious or not,” Madani, said Kaveh Madani, a senior fellow at Yale University and a visiting professor at Imperial College London. But the environment, he said, “unites people. It’s different to other kinds of political activism.” 

Madani served as deputy head of Iran’s Department of Environment until he was arrested and then
 fled the country last spring. 

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Environmental problems exacerbate Tehran’s political tensions

Arab Weekly: “One can blame human decisions and mismanagement almost any time when a flood causes damage to human systems. With better designs and policy decisions based on a better understanding of nature, humans can decrease flood damage,” said Kaveh Madani.

He added that “concurrent floods of this magnitude” were not common in Iran. “For years people have been complaining about water shortages, dried-up rivers and wetlands, dust storms and desertification. So, beliefs and memories had changed,” he said.

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Environmental activists targeted in Iran

France 24: Iran faces a looming environmental crisis, from drought to poor water quality to chronic pollution. According to experts, some regions even risk becoming uninhabitable – they blame mismanagement. Others say the return of sanctions could accelerate the crisis. In 2018, a team of prominent conservationists were jailed. They've been accused of spying and various national security crimes. Kaveh Madani, an Iranian scientist and former deputy head of Iran's Department of Environment, tells us more.

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Dams: clean power, sullied legacy

Deutsche Welle: "Dams are symbols of power," Madani told DW. "In the developing world, water is tied to the economy." Because dams are designed according to historic rainfall data, lower levels of precipitation will leave many reservoirs only partially full.

 

"You can compare it with credit cards that you can't pay off later on," Madani said. If people are promised water from a dam that doesn't appear, "we will not be able to pay off these credit cards." "We will be bankrupt — and in many basins we see this already," the Iranian environmental scientist added.

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The environment was once a safe space for activism in Iran. No longer

The Guardian: I wanted to be an agent of positive environmental change, but in return for my love for and commitment to the country, I was named a “bioterrorist”, a “water terrorist”, and a spy for Mossad, CIA and MI6. The accusations were mind-blowing, more reminiscent of James Bond movies than reality. I was accused of manipulating the weather to create droughts, trying to ratify the Paris agreement to limit development, shutting down agriculture to make the country dependent on others for its food, and importing genetically modified organisms to eliminate my fellow Iranians.

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Shade Balls In Los Angeles Were Supposed To Save Water

NowThis Future: These shade balls are thrilling to watch, but didn't actually help much in saving water. 

 

Dr Kaveh Madani, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, said: “We are very good at quick technological fixes, but we often overlook the long-term and secondary impacts of our solutions. This is how the engineering community has been solving problems; solving one problem somewhere and creating a new problem elsewhere.”

Iran's imprisoned conservationists need scientists to speak up

New Scientist: Only science can check Iran’s crackdown on environmentalists, says Kaveh Madani.

I was called a bioterrorist, water terrorist and spy for MI6, Mossad and the CIA. The Revolutionary Guards even claimed I was manipulating the weather to create a drought. They criticised me for supporting the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change, saying it would limit economic growth.

 

 

Kaveh Madani: 'The system in Iran could never trust me'

BBC: Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur speaks to Kaveh Madani, a scientist invited back to Iran from an academic post in London to be deputy head of the Environment department in Tehran.

Madani started the job in September 2017 but soon got caught up in a government crackdown to imprison suspected "spies". He fled the country in April 2018, but was he naive to accept the offer in the first place?

An Iranian researcher went home to serve his country. Now, ‘I realize that I’m lucky I’m not in prison.’

Science: When Kaveh Madani returned to Iran to serve as his country’s deputy vice president for the environment, political hardliners didn’t exactly lay out a welcome mat. Upon his arrival in Tehran, the water management expert was detained and interrogated, and several years’ worth of his photos and emails were confiscated.

How an anti-waste challenge went viral in Iran

Al-Monitor: A campaign to get ordinary people involved in devising solutions to Iran's growing waste problem has gone viral.
In December, mindful of worrisome figures, the country’s poor waste management system and a low recycling rate of about 8%, Kaveh Madani, then deputy head of the Iranian Department of Environment’s Organization for Education and Research, launched the “Bi-Zobaleh” (“No Waste”) challenge on social media to invite and encourage ordinary Iranians to take action. 

No waste: Want a change? start with yourself

Tehran Times: This is not pleasant at all. We all keep complaining about the municipalities and how they are not good at what they are doing. But is it the only explanation for waste pollution? The incompetent municipalities? Of course not. Do you want to see the natural landscapes spotless and pristine? Do you want to have a clean city? Start with yourselves; the real change must come from within ourselves. Accordingly the “no waste” scheme, which was initiated by the deputy chief for international affairs, innovation and socio-cultural engagement of the Department of Environment (DOE), Kaveh Madani, largely promotes the notion of “starting with ourselves”.

Top scientist leaves Iran after crackdown on environmentalists

The  Guardian: A top Iranian environmental scientist wooed by Hassan Rouhani’s administration to return home from the UK has left Iran amid a crackdown on environmentalists and pressure from hardliners.

 

Kaveh Madani had been persuaded to leave his position at Imperial College London last year to serve as the deputy head of Iran’s environment department. He had been seen as symbol of Rouhani government’s attempt to reverse brain drain.

Pressed by hard-Liners, U.S.-trained environmentalist quits post in Iran

New York Times: A top Iranian environmental scientist wooed by Hassan Rouhani’s administration to return home from the UK has left Iran amid a crackdown on environmentalists and pressure from hardliners.

 

Kaveh Madani had been persuaded to leave his position at Imperial College London last year to serve as the deputy head of Iran’s environment department. He had been seen as symbol of Rouhani government’s attempt to reverse brain drain.

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Kaveh Madani, Iran’s expat eco-warrior who was on too many fronts

Arab Weekly: Before he took the ministry job, Madani helped raise international awareness of environmental damage in Iran, for example with articles on the “Tehran Bureau” website hosted by the British newspaper the Guardian. However, he wanted to directly shape developments in his homeland. Madani instigated the Bi-Zobaleh (“no rubbish” campaign) with the slogan “Start with Yourself.” He helped place environmental issues into school curricula and began a social network — “No waste” — on which participants made 1-minute videos. Madani enthused much of Iran’s media. Following his lead, the conservative Tehran Times told readers: “Let’s start with ourselves by producing less trash and avoiding throwing out garbage in the nature.”

Iran’s environmental body takes unprecedented step in fight against plastic pollution

Tehran Times:  Department of Environment (DOE) has banned bottled water at the DOE offices and all other organizations affiliated with it nationwide. The world renowned water scientist has explained in his proposal to ban bottled water, that large-scale waste production, particularly non-biodegradable plastic waste, is currently one of the main environmental challenges in the country and plastic bottles accounts for a great share of the waste. 

‘We have damaged the environment and we have to do something about it’

Tehran Times:  No political boundaries matter when it comes to the environment, said the Iranian deputy environment chief Kaveh Madani. “There are a lot of people abroad, waiting and watching closely to see what’s going to happen. If I succeed, we might see more people coming back to help the government.”

Can a 36-year-old scientist solve Iran’s water crisis?

IranWire: Kaveh Madani doesn’t fit your typical image of a dour Iranian official. A celebrated and award-winning civil engineer, he was recruited by President Rouhani’s administration, primariy to work on Iran’s water crisis. As an activist, he warned the government about the crisis for years. In his frequent interviews and regular posts on social media, Madani has the familiar zeal and ambition of a young manager tasked with solving big problems. But, perhaps because he knows how intractable the environmental crises facing Iran are, he also adopts a cautionary approach. Wary of Iran’s developmental hubris, he seems to encapsulate Rouhani’s modernizing agenda. But will he be able to get much done? 

Kaveh Madani appointed Iran’s deputy environment chief

Tehran Times:  Renowned Iranian scientist and environmental activist Kaveh Madani was appointed on Sunday as the deputy for international affairs, innovation and socio-cultural engagement of the Department of Environment. Earlier this year, Madani's name appeared in the media as one of the candidates with strong support from the Iranian environmental NGOs and activists to become Iran's Minister of Energy after Hamid Chitchian in President Hassan Rouhani's second presidency term. Madani had denied the news later in an interview with Mehr News Agency.

Is the world wide web a waste of water?

BBC:  Researchers at Imperial College London made headlines last year when they claimed that up to 200 litres of water could be involved in the download of a single gigabyte (GB) of data. Kaveh Madani from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College says that things have improved since the research was carried out. "Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Google have made substantial improvements with respect to their water footprint," he says."They are investing in this area because they appreciate water availability issues. They also understand the reputational risk better than before. If they overlook their environmental effects, they can hurt their reputation."

Imperial reader receives ASCE's prestigious Huber Prize

Imperial College: Dr Kaveh Madani, Centre for Environmental Policy, will receive the Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize of the American Society of Civil Engineers “for groundbreaking research in developing methods for the allocation of scarce water resources merging conflict-resolution and game-theoretic concepts for application to complex water resources systems.” The award selection committee of ASCE particularly noted his “outstanding leadership in the application of systems analysis to environmental, water and energy resource problems.”

Clouds of filth envelop Asian cities: 'you can't escape'

The  Guardian: This year has seen some of Asia’s worst urban smog episodes in nearly 20 years, as India’s air pollution soars above levels recorded in China

“On paper the solutions are easy. We need better gasoline, higher standard cars. We need to revise the transport system, increase the capacity of the subway, prevent more people coming into the city centres. They can have alternate days for vehicles but people buy two cars,” said Kaveh Madani, a lecturer in environmental management at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London.

Imperial senior lecturer elected as Outstanding Young Scientist in Geosciences

Imperial College: Dr Kaveh Madani, senior lecturer in environmental management at Imperial, to receive the EGU Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists for “fundamental contributions to integrating game theory and decision analysis into conventional water resources management.” Since 1983, EGU has awarded Union-level recognitions to 136 pioneers of geosciences around the world, including 46 early career scientists. Dr Madani is the first Imperial researcher receiving an award at Union level.

COP21 Q&A: Is it already too late to limit global warming? What happens next?

Independent: Imperial College London senior lecturer Dr Kaveh Madani said: “History shows that we are good at setting ambitious targets and goals in major international summits. But what matters more is how to get to the target”. In other words, without a binding structure in place to ensure the necessary and dramatic actions are taken to ensure the temperature target is met, 1.5C is just a number that no party is obliged to meet.

Iran: Dried out

Financial Times: Poor planning, populist policies and drought have contributed to a critical water shortage.  iran's water problems are largely of its own making. The country has a notable history of water engineering. It has built impressive dams and invented the ancient system of qanats, vertical shafts connected by gently sloping tunnels that channel water from higher regions with no need for pumps.

“We developed qanats and introduced them to the world, then we lost them. It’s so sad that one of the most sustainable ways of water harvesting is almost gone,” says Dr Kaveh Madani, an authority on Iran’s water at Imperial College, London.

Biggest lakes in the world under pressure

Circle of Blue: “The characteristics of the problem or the specifications of the problem are different from one location to another,” said Kaveh Madani. “That’s why many times we don’t know how we need to deal with these things, and once a crisis occurs, we get surprised by the different symptoms that appear. Many times we don’t know what to do, or it is ultimately too late to take an action. Natural systems have some level of threshold—they are resilient, they can tolerate some level of disturbance and injury—but once you pass that it’s too late, the system might not be recoverable.”

Remember this face

UCF Today: In Kaveh Madani’s ideal world, every living creature would have uninhibited access to water. The UCF civil engineering assistant professor has been honored nationally for his professional and personal efforts to achieve that goal.

He was named a 2012 New Face of Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The award recognizes the notable civil engineering achievements of people age 30 and younger. Only 10 individuals in the country were named, and Madani is the only Floridian to receive the honor.
“I’m a non-traditional engineer who pays attention to social and political aspects of engineering problems,” Madani said. “When engineers call me a social scientist, I consider that a compliment,” he added.

California dams to feel impact of climate change

New York Times: California’s high-elevation dams could generate considerably less power over the next 40 years as a result of rising temperatures associated with climate change, according to a recent study.  Such an outcome would not, however, be as dire as some in the state’s hydropower industry feared, according to Kaveh Madani, at the Water Science and Policy Center at the University of California, Riverside, and a co-author of the study.

“The sky is not falling,” Mr. Madani said. “We still can adapt the system.”

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