Desertification Crisis in Iran: A Looming Environmental Catastrophe – Iran News Update

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The spread of desertification across various regions has highlighted the severe consequences of climate change, particularly in southern, central, and eastern Iran. If the current rate of desertification continues, with one million hectares of desert being created annually, Iran could become entirely desertified within 164 years.
Currently, drought has ravaged 150,000 hectares of agricultural land in Sistan and Baluchestan province, affecting more than 200 villages in eastern Iran. An expert and climate researcher warned that weak management and the Iranian regime’s ineffective policies regarding Afghanistan have exacerbated desertification in Sistan and Baluchestan. Poor management, combined with Afghanistan’s dam construction on rivers and the cutoff of water supply to the Hamun lagoon, has significantly altered the region’s climate. The winds known as the “120 days winds” in Sistan now persist for 180 to 200 days annually.
The construction of dams in Afghanistan and the prevention of Iran’s share of river water leading to the Hamun wetland, coupled with decreased rainfall and mismanagement of floods, have intensified the movement of quicksand. This environmental crisis has directly impacted residents in over 1,032 villages in Sistan and Baluchestan, leading to health issues such as eye, lung, and heart diseases. The tuberculosis growth rate in the region, with around 17 cases per 100,000 people, underscores the regime’s inaction and the Taliban’s refusal to open dam gates, violating agreements between Iran and Afghanistan.
Desertification is not confined to Sistan and Baluchestan. In March 2022, an expert from the Natural Resources and Watershed Management Organization of the Iranian regime reported that one million square meters in Iran turn into desert annually, affecting at least 17 provinces. Efforts to combat desertification have been insufficient, with desert growth outpacing mitigation actions by threefold.
The desertification process in Iran is faster than in neighboring countries. Experts warn that if one million hectares of desert are created annually, Iran’s 1,648,196 square kilometers will be completely desertified in 164 years. The movement of loose sand, a byproduct of increasing desert areas, presents another significant concern. In Shahrood, more than half of the area is desert, with 140,000 hectares of critical wind erosion centers identified.
In Fars province, the situation is alarming. The head of the desert affairs department of the General Directorate of Natural Resources and Watershed Management of Fars province reported that 1.24 million hectares of natural resources are desertified, endangering cities like Larestan, Lamerd, Khonj, Mehr, Zarindasht, Neyriz, Farashband, Darab, Fasa, and Bakhtegan.
The development of deserts in Iran is driven by dam construction, climate manipulation in the southern regions and central plateau, river course alterations, vegetation destruction, and environmental pollution. These actions have led to further environmental degradation. In Khuzestan province, tree planting projects intended to combat desertification have failed due to wetland drying, non-payment of water rights, and interference for oil field exploitation, resulting in 345,000 hectares of desert and dust production centers.
The drying of rivers, lakes, and wetlands over the past three decades has had devastating effects on the climate. Wetlands that once prevented desert expansion have now become deserts. The drying of the Jazmurian wetland in southern Kerman province in December 2023, caused by dam construction on the HalilRood River, has turned the area into a major dust center, with 25% of Iran’s fine dust originating from Jazmurian.
The regime’s response to desertification has been passive. Promises of tree planting and wetland revival have gone unfulfilled, and budget cuts for environmental organizations have worsened the situation. The failure to address water management issues and dam construction in neighboring countries, including Turkey, has compounded the crisis.
Statistics reveal that climate change and drought have forced 800,000 Iranians into internal migration over the past two years, primarily from the central plateau to northern provinces, Tehran, and Alborz. This migration trend threatens to disrupt population balance and create security concerns by increasing the evacuation of border villages.
Despite repeated warnings from environmental activists, the regime’s executive directors have ignored the gradual destruction of Iran’s climate, resulting in unfulfilled promises and escalating environmental degradation.
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