The crimes against the environment of Iran’s clerical regime is not limited to Khuzestan. Anything related to the life of people is subject to a brutal attack and is at the mercy of the regime’s sinister schemes. The aggressive actions of the ruling clerics are directed at people, places, animals, livelihoods, water, and even the air. Writes Khalil Khani
Khuzestan plain is one of the oldest regions on the Iranian plateau, where the Aryan nations were living since 2700 BC and the first civilizations of that era were formed. The southwestern province was most proud of its landscape with palm trees and agriculture.
The existence of five rivers, all of which originate from the Zagros Mountains and irrigate the Khuzestan Plain and flow into the Persian Gulf after a few hundred kilometers had made this province the most water-rich province in Iran. The Karun River was the largest of these rivers and the only navigable river that ships entered from the Persian Gulf and anchored at the ports of Abadan, Khorramshahr, and Ahvaz.
The existence of this number of rivers has played a decisive role in the development of this region. The people of this region were engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry, using the fertile lands around these rivers, and fishing since ancient times.
Also, after the discovery of Iran’s first oil reserves in Masjed Soleiman, Khuzestan became the richest province in Iran and the largest refinery in the Middle East was built in the city of Abadan.
The palm trees are considered one of the main sources of income not only for Khuzestan, but also, Bushehr, Hormozgan, Kerman, and Fars provinces palm farmers. The region is the main producer and exporter of date products in Iran, second after Egypt. However, farmers who have relied completely on these trees are now facing uncertainty and a dark future as the regime refuses to provide them with the required water for their farmlands.
Although a date palm tree is capable of resisting harsh conditions, it can be vulnerable to salty water, and hazardous dust storms, and die in a short time. According to the Deputy of the Rural Cooperative Organization of Ahvaz, “the input volume of water from Khuzestan’s various rivers have been severely reduced due to IRGC massive dams construction”. As a result of the low level of the water in the rivers, there has been a surge of salty water from the Gulf into Karun River and other rivers, which increased the amount of salinity of the water in this river and date farms around them.
In addition, the construction of Gotvand Dam, an IRGC created environmental disaster, where the reservoir’s bed is located on a mountain of salt, has contributed to increasing salinity of the Karun River. This dam has been described as the salt mine, environmental disaster, and the big national mistake that has an added an additional 25% of salinity to Karun River.
The crimes against the environment of Iran’s clerical regime is not limited to Khuzestan. Anything related to the life of people is subject to a brutal attack and is at the mercy of the regime’s sinister schemes. The aggressive actions of the ruling clerics are directed at people, places, animals, livelihoods, water, and even the air.
After more than 42 years of clerical rule, Iran has seen a gradual decline in the number of date palm trees in Khuzestan province and other date producing regions, leading to the destruction of five million out of six million date palm trees in the region of Abadan. As a result of the government’s destructive policies, the remaining one million date palm trees are left to die from thirst, causing hardships for many date farmers. Shadegan, another region that grew palm trees and was a main contributor to the economy had five million date palm trees in 1989, now, there are only two million of those trees left. Again, those two million trees will also die.
Another reason for the death of date palms is the release of toxic discharge of sugarcane plants and other factories into rivers, which causes certain toxicity. Frequent toxic dust storms from dried-up rivers’ beds and accumulation of dust on palm trees’ greenery, which prevents proper photosynthesis lead to the trees’ deaths.
A total of 170 dams were constructed on the basins of the Karkheh, Karun, Maroun, and Jarrahi rivers. Seventy of the dams were constructed on the Karun. This is while experts say none of the dams should have been constructed in the first place. Many ask why all these dams are needed and where the waters are diverted to.
The recent massive dust storms that have overtaken the cities of Ahvaz, Susangerd, and Dezful are not a new phenomenon. They have been occurring on a smaller scale for years.
They are connected to overlapping issues, some extending beyond Iran’s borders, which are tied together in climate change and global warming. Pollution of air and water is contributing to long-term changes in weather. Horolazim and Shadegan wetlands, as well as Karun, Karkheh, and Jarrahi rivers, the most critical water resources of the province, are depleted and contain unprecedented levels of toxic waste.
The lack of moisture in drying plains allows dust to rise as the wind blows and carries it away. While Khuzestan is best known as an energy-rich province, it also lies in the fertile crescent, on some of the earth’s best water and land. More than one million hectares of its land are agricultural, and it provides the country with crucial crops during the cold seasons. But this is changing as the rivers die out.
The people of Khuzestan especially, and other date-producing regions, have always been deprived of their wealth during the past 42 years and also during the Pahlavi era. The Shah ceded oil to Britain almost for free in order to maintain its rule while the clerical regime followed its fundamentalist expansionist policies to export its terrorism, causing the war between Iran and Iraq, which destroyed most of the cities in the western portion of Iran.
Khamenei’s most important agenda, as Supreme Leader, was to maintain his grip on power. Therefore, he gradually handed over most of the country’s affairs, including Iran’s important economic institutions, to the IRGC, a military force loyal to and dependent on him.
Today, 90% of Iran’s economy is under IRGC’s control and under the direct supervision of the Supreme Leader. However, since the structure of the governing system is corrupt, commanders, and officials of the IRGC are mostly individuals without real classical education and expertise, their control over the Iranian economy has destroyed Iran’s economic infrastructure. In addition to plundering Iran’s capital and wealth, they are only concerned with the brutal suppression of Iranians, expanding the regime’s military, missile, and nuclear industries, and financing proxy and terrorist forces in the region. Thus, they have not paid attention to the reconstruction of any other infrastructures in the country.
In today’s Iran, any social issue one touches, the barrier of the Supreme Leader and the IRGC stands right in front of you regardless of the issue, including the issue of bread, water, air, shelter, and traffic, etc. Without the elimination of these barriers, one is unable to find a solution for existing sociopolitical problems in Iran.
Khalil Khani is an Environmental Specialist and a Human Rights activist. He holds a Ph.D. in Ecology, Botany, and Environmental Studies from Germany and has taught at the University of Tehran and the Hesse State University in Germany. He is also a Doctor of Medical Psychology from the United States.