Foreign Ministry to follow up on Hour al-Azim wetland wildfire

August 27, 2018

TEHRAN – While wildfire has been hitting the Iraqi part of Hour al-Azim, a transboundary body of water shared between Iran and Iraq, since July 2, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has entrusted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pursue negotiations on fire operations, chief of Khuzestan province’s department of environment has said.

“Issa Kalantari, head of the Department of Environment (DOE) has recently sent a letter to [president] Rouhani regarding the long lasting fire in the Iraqi part of the wetland and its problems haunting people in southwestern part of the country,” IRNA quoted Ahmadreza Lahijanzadeh as saying on Sunday.

The president, subsequently, assigned the Foreign Ministry to urgently issue a complaint to the Iraqi government, given that the fire is believed to have been started deliberately and is lasting for such a long time, he added. 

Rouhani also requested the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to participate in the fire operations to put out the fire, he stated.

“In recent days, a meeting has been held at the Supreme National Security Council to address the issue of fire burning Hour al-Azim,” he noted.

During the meeting, it was planned that a delegation consisting of Iranian officials from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the DOE and the governor’s office, to travel to Iraq as soon as possible, to negotiate the issue or persuade the Iraqi officials to attend a similar meeting in Iran, Lahijanzadeh explained. 

He went on to say that so far, around 28,000 hectares of the wetland have been burnt in fire.

Referring to the constant operation of a helicopter dispatched to extinguish the fire, he noted that it was the third phase of aerial firefighting which has lasted for four days.

The first phase of firefighting operation has been carried out by two helicopters and an aerial firefighter aircraft since July 29 to August 3, and the second phase started on August 11 to 15, he highlighted.

He further explained that the raging fire sweeping through Iraqi part of Hour al-Azim, has caused air pollution and breathing difficulties for people of Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran.

Earlier in August, Kalantari said that Iran stopped fire operation in Hour al-Azim, since the Iraqi government seems to be reluctant to make any moves to put out the fire as once the fire first broke out in the area it took Iraq 12 days to issue permits for the Iranian helicopters to fly over the area for aerial firefighting, it also took them 7 days to issue permits for the second time.

The fire was extinguished on July 25 after 4 days of fire operation, but the area caught fire again on August 2 and the fire was again contained three days later. Currently the wetland is still burning in fire and cities nearing the area are blanketed in choking smoke. 

The smoke rising from the raging fire in Hour al-Azim wetland has crossed the border into the city of Howeyzeh and drifted over 115 kilometers to reach Mahshahr affecting Rafie, Susangerd, Bostan, Hamidieh and Ahvaz on its way. Particulate matters concentration also peaks at 4 times above the safe levels when the fire ignites. 

It is threatening people’s health that many are now suffering respiratory diseases and some are forced to leave their houses. Consequently, only in Howeyzeh, over 250 people have been hospitalized due to respiratory problems caused by breathing thick smoke.

Fire also burnt over 2,000 hectares of canebrakes in Iranian parts of the wetland located in Khuzestan, but it is soon extinguished by Iranian firefighters.

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