Improving freshwater management within the urban environment is currently seen with a sense of urgency. Urban water problems are mounting throughout the world. Widespread mismanagement of water resources, growing competition for the use of freshwater, degraded sources – sometimes by pollutants of unpredictable effect – only heighten the acuteness of the problems. The situation is further exacerbated by an explosive growth of urbanization, particularly in the developing world, which exhibits as its most visible expression the emergence of mega-cities that often obey a massive internal migration towards the cities feeding an uncontrolled, unplanned expansion.
These problems are of a complex nature and can only be properly addressed with a concerted effort involving scientific, social and institutional approaches. Thus in document 31 C/5, urban-related issues for the sciences are considered as a special initiative on “Integrated approaches to sustainable development” involving the five international scientific programs in UNESCO and in a joint International Hydrologic Programme / Man and Biosphere (IHP/MAB) main line of action on “Land-water interactions: towards sustainable management”. In addition to addressing scientific and technological aspects, suitable urban water management strategies will be explored in the context of poverty alleviation. In this way three main concerns: water, poverty and urban areas (including mega-cities) will be linked. This is also clearly in line with the crosscutting theme on poverty eradication adapted by the Executive Board of UNESCO at its 160th session.
Moreover, the proposed plan for the Sixth Phase of the IHP for 2002-2007 has five major themes. Theme 3 “Land habitat hydrology” includes a specific focal area on “Urban areas and rural settlements”. Its main objectives include “creating conditions for multidisciplinary interactions, appropriate transfer of technology … for water managers, urban planners and sanitary specialists” and “to address the processes and strengthen research into urban systems’ interactions in particular climate regions”.
According to the above-mentioned subjects, institutional arrangement and development is essential in order to overcome the challenges at national/regional and international levels.
In compliance with above-mentioned challenges, finally, an agreement between the Government of I.R. Iran and UNESCO with the presence of Mr. Matsuura, the Director General of UNESCO in February 2002 was signed based on which the Regional Centre on Urban Water Management, under the auspices of UNESCO, was officially inaugurated and launched its activities.