Iran & the Ahwaz environment crisis

There have been a variety of reports in the media about last month’s dust storms and environmental crisis in Ahwaz and Khuzestan Province, located in the country’s southwest border and bordering Iraq. Considering the enormous crisis the world witnessed, especially with the Iranian people taking to the media to unveil the atrocious conditions. The question is does the mullahs’ regime in Iran have any policy to tackle this problem?

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No solution can be possibly found in the framework of this regime, according to experts in Iran and those abroad. This is the truth about all other environmental problems in Iran, while we are specifically discussing the water and dust storm crisis in Ahwaz and Khuzestan Province.

Iran’s water sources, above ground or below surface, are in critical conditions, with experts saying in ten years’ time two thirds of Iran will be desert lands. The city of Urmia in northwest Iran is home to central Asia’s largest intake waterbody, known as Lake Urmia. However, this once huge water source is now drying up, literally.

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This very spot is now becoming the source of dust storms and a new and very lethal phenomenon known as salt storms, gravely impacting the lives of 14 or 15 million people. Cancer statistics are dangerously on the rise in Iran, too.

On the other hand, in Iran’s southeast region of Hamoun and Sistan & Baluchistan we are witnessing a very similar scenario. Other water sources and lagoons in the middle of Iran, in Fars and Kerman provinces, to be exact, we are witnessing another such situation with the above ground water sources.

And the truth is no actions have been taken by the mullahs’ regime to resolve these dilemmas. Senior Iranian regime officials are only concerned of their profits, adopting a major desertification policy and constructing a large number of dams, launching deep oil rigs in search of enormous profits, while caring less and destroying underground water pockets. As a result such water sources are being annihilated and leading to severe damages to Iran’s once rich forests.

All the while, Iran’s factions are more concerned about their own political and economic interests, holding all others responsible for the recent dust storm crisis. This can be seen in the remarks made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his loyalists in their lashing at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his faction, blaming them for failing to take any actions. Rouhani, in response, says all such problems were inherited by his cabinet from the previous presidency, especially from firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This shows this is part of the entire crisis faced by the Iranian people, as the regime in Tehran fails to have any serious resolution to these crises.

Missile Launches And Storm Damages Show Failure Of Obama’s Iran Deal

Despite access to new cash in the wake of President Obama’s Iran Deal, the mullahs aren’t using it to aid Iran’s storm-ravaged provinces. They’re busy shelling out for missiles.

In recent weeks, disastrous flash floods, avalanches, and dust storms have gripped the country’s south, including the provinces of Fars, Bushehr and 11 others.

The catastrophes coincided with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) launching sophisticated missiles during a three-day military exercise which began on Monday, Feb. 21, in Iran’s central desert. This missile launch was the fifth of its kind, and conducted in defiance of the United Nations resolution. The launches also came a day after it was revealed that U.S. senators were planning to introduce legislation imposing additional economic sanctions on Iran, proving that the mullahs could care less about the effects of their behavior. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke of these plans during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, according to Reuters. “I think it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,”.Graham said.

The events reveal that the Iranian regime, despite having access to a vast new cash stream as a result of President Obama’s Iran Deal, nevertheless continues to prioritize illegal military activity over serving the needs of its people.  Its refusal to render aid to its stricken provinces after devastating storms shows in stark terms how the Deal has been an unmitigated failure.

The natural disasters in the south are no ordinary storm aftermath. Heavy flooding has cut electricity supplies and water to thousands of people, destroying streets and houses. It has also ravaged roads, opened sinkholes, and collapsed bridges. Some 10,000 people have been left homeless.

“The torrential rain caused flooding across the south, from Khuzestan province on the Iraqi border, to Sistan-Baluchistan province on the border with Pakistan.  Thousands fled villages downstream from dams, fearing collapses like (that) in Jiroft in the north, where at least five people (were) killed in avalanches over the past two weeks as up to two meters (more than six feet) of snow fell in the Zagros and Alborz mountains,” one news agency reported.

The flood has damaged more than 1,000 residential units, with 250 structures sustaining major damage. Residents have been severely exposed to contaminated water.  The earthen dam of Bardsir collapsed and water ran into villages downstream.  Despite a decade-long oil earnings bonanza, these disasters show that the government has neither constructed nor maintained necessary building infrastructure, which are in poor condition.  Nor has civil defense been up to snuff: Flood advisories, watches, and patrol groups have not been present at the scene, either.  The River Engineering and Flood Control Bureau held glossy meetings for public relations purposes, but did nothing of practical value to either prevent the disaster or render assistance afterward.

What’s more, they have done all they can to keep citizens in the dark about it.  The government has broadcast plenty of news about the regime’s defiant missile launch, but either reduced or blacked out local news describing the extent of the storm damage, and in some cases censored news.  A favored technique the regime has been to reduce Internet speeds to ensure that public exposure to the news is limited, and cannot spread. Iranian residents in the heavily damaged areas have since told the opposition press that they feel ignored by the authorities, with a dreadful sense that theirs is a government that does not carewhat happens to them or their flooded province.

And make no mistake, this is is an area that has suffered horrifically from natural disasters since the advent of the mullahs.  These floods came just a year after a similar torrent in the same area left 280 people dead and caused millions of dollars in damage, with no precautionary plan in place.  To view this from the eyes of the survivors still awaiting help, a look at the recent history they are aware of is important:

From January 5, 1987 through July 22, 2001, floods in different parts of Iran killed 1120 people, destroyed 10,000 homes, 10,000 miles of roads, 1,300 bridges and ruined 2,470 acres of agricultural land, at a cost of $1.7 billion in damage.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) office in Tehran has warned officials, repeatedly, that floods will continue to wreak havoc in the country, unless effective preparedness and preventive measures are undertaken soon.  But no such measures have been taken by the government.  The fate of the provinces will be little different from that of Tehran’s iconic 17-story Plasco tower, which collapsed into rubble last Jan. 19 as a deadly fire consumed it.

According to an Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK) report, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, have neglected the poor economic conditions and quality of life of the people, yet they have poured billions of dollars into three wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and now are steering billions more from in newly-released assets from President Obama’s Iran Deal into new military spending for missiles, rockets, ammunition and bombs. They also are using it in a massive exercise and drill now by the IRGC which pursues state-sponsored terrorism.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) offered enormous benefits for Iran’s economy and, as a result, provided substantial additional resources to the government of Iran.  Now the question is, what did Tehran do with the money?  Did they use it for protection from floods?  They didn’t.

It demonstrates conclusively that the plunder of Iran’s wealth by the mullahs, who claim to be Muslim leaders, and who have hijacked the Iranian Revolution three decades ago have left almost nothing for the Iranian people.  The tiny rich section of Tehran, which consists of mullahs and their families, have usurped the entire wealth of Iran.  Many of them, such as the IRGC, have illegally expropriated the nation’s collective wealth for their personal benefit. For example, IRGC commanders have built dams on Iran’s rivers to direct water to their private plantations. Lake Urmia, in northwestern Iran, used to be the largest lake in the Middle East, and the sixth-largest saltwater lake on Earth before they appropriated it.  It was once a major tourist attraction and a home to migratory birds but has since shrunk substantially and has fallen into a dramatic decline for some years after the IRGC got hold of it. The dried lakes and rivers that remain have caused substantial destructive changes to the environment since.  Poor air, land, and water quality all have serious health effects including respiratory and eye diseases in the country.

Meanwhile, MEK reported that, residents of Ahvaz, in the capital of the oil-rich fields of Khuzestan province, have been protesting for six consecutive days in increasingly larger gatherings. These Iranian citizen protests are over dust storms, power failures and government mismanagement despite security forces declaring all demonstrations illegal.

President Rohani’s one-day visit to Ahvaz on Feb. 23 followed days of protests by residents blaming power cuts, dust pollution, and water-supply problems on government mismanagement. Rohani’s visit did not satisfy the protestors, they said  Rohani’s promises, like the others, were hollow promises aiming to cool citizen anger. Considering the powder-keg nature of Iran’s society, his only concern was for his regime, worrying that the people’s exasperation and scattered protests may merge into a mass uprising similar to that of 2009. That’s little comfort to those afflicted by the natural disasters and the indifferent response.

For average Iranians, what, again, was good about this much-touted Iran Deal?

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and social media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.

Originally posted in American ThinkerAmerican Thinker

Ahwaz protests in Iran: A sign of things to come?

Tensions continue to rise between the new US administration and Iran with a series of actions and reactions. Most recently, Iran has launched a new round of military drills, embarking on more provocative actions, while US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have joined in by issuing what is described as twin warnings to Iran.

All the while, what should not go neglected is the simmering status inside Iran. The society is considered a powder keg as unrest continues to grow after 38 years of the mullahs’ atrocious dictatorship. The last four years of the so-called “moderate” or “reformist” Iranian President Hassan Rowhani has also failed to yield any demands raised by the people despite claiming to hold the “key” to all problems.

The city of Ahwaz in southwest Iran has been the scene of continuous unrest, as locals are protesting a slate of disastrous plans implemented by the mullahs’ regime to reroute Karoon River, a major source of water for agriculture and other vital aspects of life in this area where the summer is scorching hot.

These projects include also the diversion of waters from Karkhe River, excessive dam construction and the oil ministry resorting to inexpensive oil extraction methods. This practice, mainly implemented by the Revolutionary Guards, has fruited a long list of dried local lakes and ponds.

The result has been nothing but increasing air pollution and water and power being frequently cut off. To this end, the people’s very health is in danger as clean air to breath is literally hard to find.

Banks, administrative offices, schools and universities have been closed in nearly a dozen Khuzestan Province cities. Even oil production, which Tehran seems to boast to have escalated above 4 million barrels per day now, has suffered tremendously with a 770,000-barrel nosedive.

Growing street protests

However, the most concerning aspect of the entire situation for the regime involves the growing number of street protests that began on February 12th and continued for at least a week in the face of numerous warnings issued by the repressive state security apparatus.

And despite heavy security measures to prevent any escalation of such rallies, even a gathering brewed in Tehran’s Vanak Square where protesters expressed solidarity with their fellow countrymen and chanted against the mullahs’ regime.

While demonstrators were protesting the lack of vital daily services, the atmosphere quickly grew political with the crowd beginning to chant “Death to tyranny,” “Death to repression,” “We the people of Ahvaz will not accept oppression,” Expel incompetent officials,” “Ahwaz is our city, clean air is our right,” and “Shame on state police.”

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi hailed the people of Khuzestan, and especially Ahvaz, while calling on all Iranians to rise in support. The mullahs’ regime is the main source of all major and minor dilemmas in Iran, which in this case has resulted in the people being deprived of water and power services, alongside growing unemployment and rampaging diseases threatening the locals, Rajavi added.

The city of Ahwaz in southwest Iran has been the scene of continuous unrest. (File photo: AFP)

“One cannot expect the mullahs’, the regime’s leaders and officials to provide any solutions,” she added, calling upon the entire nation to support the deprived people of Khuzestan, most especially the ill and vulnerable.

While the province is rich in oil, the locals have yet to enjoy any benefits. Home to one million inhabitants, the city of Ahvaz is plagued by a large number of surrounding petrochemical factories that emit a large scale of pollutants. This has left locals engulfed in environmental challenges reaching the point where the World Health Organization ranked Ahwaz as the world’s most polluted city in 2015.

The situation has been described as “terrible and extremely complex” by activists and locals complaining the regime only seeks to make money from their lands. The regime responded to the unrest by issuing a statement warning people to refrain from “illegal gatherings” and serious action will be taken against any and all violators.

Western reporters banned

Riot police units have also been dispatched to Ahwaz, in addition to additional forces from neighboring provinces. Authorities banned many Western reporters from visiting the city, raising even more concerns about the regime’s true intentions.

The regime continues to fail to respond to the people’s demands, as all the country’s budget is allocated to warmongering across the region, including Iran’s involvement in Syria, the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and a massive crackdown machine missioned to clamp down on any dissent and resorting to atrocious human rights violations in the process.

Rest assured the scenes witnessed recently in Ahvaz are only a prelude to more intense episodes of future rallies in different cities across the country that will rattle the mullahs’ entire foundation.

Originally posted in Al Arabiya English