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Why Khuzestan is thirsty and restive

Drought in Iran's Khuzestan province
Drought in Iran's Khuzestan province

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, July 28, 2021—This summer, the temperature in Khuzestan reached over 50 degrees Celsius. The Covid-19 outbreak and the lack of health facilities and vaccines on the one hand and poverty, inflation and unemployment on the other have caused many problems for the people of Khuzestan. However these days, water shortage has been added to the long list of existing problems.

Forty year-problems of Khuzestan’s people

The Iranian regime’s eight-year war on Iraq devastated Khuzestan province and other border provinces. But the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) continued to ruin this part of the country through its destructive policie after the war ended. These policies that have led to destruction of the environment and the spread of poverty and unemployment in this province, even though it is home to large oil facilities and resources in the gas and petrochemicals industry. Last year, the protests of the deprived people of Gheyzaniyeh district in the city of Ahwaz, with a population of 250,000, due to the lack of drinking water made everyone wonder how the richest region of Iran has been reduced to such conditions.

Just a few days ago, former regime’s president Mahmood Ahmadinejad revealed that a "security plan to prevent balanced development" is being considered in Khuzestan.

"After the [Iran-Iraq] war the Supreme National Security Council approved a plan to prevent any investment in Khuzestan, because the development of Khuzestan could cause problems for the government," Ahmadinejad said.

The root of Khuzestan’s problems

Khuzestan province has five majore and important rivers. The province, with a population of about 5 million and 14 percent  of GDP, has a 40 percent   economic participation rate. The total unemployment rate in the province is more than 25 percent. Also, more than 25 percent of the people are below the poverty line, and Khuzesta ranks second in the country in terms of slum-dwelling population. Therefore, areas like Khuzestan, which are not geographically, ethnically, and politically aligned with the regime are deprived of economic opportunities and privileges. Karun, Dez, Karkheh, Jarahi and Zohreh, which were once the water-rich rivers of the region and the country, have now become dried rivers due to water theft and mismanagement caused by the government.

According to a July 20 article in the state-run Aftab-e Yazd daily, "Khuzestan has not had so many problems overnight that it can be treated overnight. Beyond this issue, one can all government to account from [Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani] to the end of [Hassan] Rouhani’s government, all the governors and MPs of this province and this means that in Khuzestan, ‘we are all to blame!’”

Today, even so-called reformists ask themselves what did they do to Khuzestan while they were in power?

Kianoosh Rad, a former member of Majlis(parliament) said on July 19, "Unfortunately, all post-revolution governments, left and right, reformist and hardliners, have all been involved in transferring water from the Karun tributaries to the central plateau of Iran for consumption in industries such as steel, agriculture and rice. The people of Khuzestan have also realized that by placing their hopes in the hardliners or reformists, Hashemi, Khatami or Ahmadinejad, Rouhani and now Raisi, there will be no difference and no change in the macro water transfer policies,"

Secret water transfer projects

Now, with protests and uprisings in Khuzestan and other provinces, gradualy, the plans of regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards are being exposed.

According to the semi official ISNA news agency, on July 22, Mojtaba Yousefi, a member of Majlis from Ahwaz, said regarding the implementation of unscientific and confidential water transfer projects in Khuzestan province: "Khuzestan witnessed a self-made flood of the Ministry of Energy in 2019 because they wanted to say that Khuzestan has surplus water resources and transfer it.”

Secret issuance of activity license for Behesht Abad water transfer workshop

Irregular dams and water transfer from Karun tributaries have caused the country's largest river to face water shortage and salinity. A total of 170 dams have been constructed on the Karkheh, Karun, Marun and Jarahi basins, of which 70 are in Karun; Upstream of Karkheh, 15 dams have been built in Kermanshah province and more than 10 in Ilam province, but according to experts, none of these dams should have been built.

According to a July 18 report by the ISNA news agency, "One of the water transfer projects is the Behesht Abad project, which was approved by the Supreme Water Council in 2011, and its construction began despite all objections. The plan was to transfer water from Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province to Isfahan, Yazd and Kerman provinces so that about 1.1 billion cubic meters of water would be transferred to Iran’s central plateau annually. However, the representative of Abadan in the parliament has revealed that in recent days, at the same time as the drying of Hur al-Azim marshes and the reduction of water entrance to rivers in Khuzestan province, the permit to continue Behesht Abad water transfer workshop has been issued in secret.”

54 days left until the water level of Karkheh dam reaches zero

Expert discussions and scientific evaluations have been repeated many times during these forty years that water should not be transferred from Khuzestan to other places. All these dams should not be built on the rivers. Sugarcane should not be cultivated in plains that do not have the capacity for it.

Hamshahri daily posted on July 21: "An informed source in the Ministry of Energy said: ‘The live and usable volume behind Karkheh Dam is currently 760 million cubic meters, according to today's monitoring, and with this volume of harvest, we are only 54 days away from zero water of Karkheh Dam.’”

Also, the construction of dams has not been unhelpful Khuzestan, but has also destroyed the environment of this province. The Gotvand Dam on Karun is one of the most obvious examples of the failure of the policy of insisting on the improper dam construction and the result was nothing but the dissolution of millions of tons of salt in the water of this dam and the destruction of palms and agriculture in Khuzestan province.

Drying Hur al-Azim Marshes to access oil

Another issue that has led to the crisis in the Hur al-Azim Marshes is making the wrong decisions about the use of oil resources.

A July 20 article by Eghtesad-e Saramad reads, "According to our research, we consider the Hur al-Azim marshes to be similar to the Amazon forests, and the impact of these respiratory lungs is not limited to Ahvaz, but the whole country is affected by it. The number of fish and animals that are dying due to dehydration in the Hur al-Azim is increasing day by day, which is a very painful event.”

Dehydration in Khuzestan is the result of looting resources

The ongoing uprisings in Khuzestan and other parts of Iran have attracted attention across the globe. The French newspaper Liberation quotes an expert on Iranian affairs as saying: "The current drought in Khuzestan and Iran is not due to drought. The main culprits are the leaders of the Islamic Republic, who believe that economic production is achieved through looting and destruction of natural resources, not in their multiplication. An environmental disaster in Iran has piled up dangerously. Mismanagement and looting of resources have depopulated more than 50 percent of Iran's villages and led to significant population movements in the country. Khuzestan is traditionally one of the insurgent regions of Iran and was one of the main centers of protests in Iran’s November 2019 protests. The current protests of people in Khuzestan were natural and predictable for a long time."