By Faranak Bakhtiari

Environment missing from presidential debates

June 7, 2021 - 17:22

TEHRAN – Low rainfall and water scarcity are among the major environmental issues that Iran has been dealing with throughout history. However, all the seven presidential candidates for the upcoming elections have missed out on environmental issues in their debates.

The presidential election will be held on June 18. The first televised debate between the contenders was held on Saturday afternoon, when almost all of them pointed their fingers at the banking system and economic growth, disregarding the environment.

“If the future government does not pay attention to the problem of water scarcity, it will not be able to manage its social consequences,” said a water expert Mohsen Mousavi-Khansari, warning of the drought crisis and its serious consequences.

It was in March that Ahad Vazifeh, head of the national center for drought and crisis management, forecasted that the country will not receive much rain until the end of summer (September 23). A month later, he announced that an unprecedented drought had occurred in some parts of the country.

This is while in the following weeks, statistics showed that precipitation has declined by 60 percent in Iran over the first two months of the current [Iranian calendar] year (March 21-May 21) compared to the same period last year.

And, it dropped by 41 percent compared to the long-term average.

Economic growth dependent on environment

Of course, water scarcity and drought are not new issues for a country with an arid and semi-arid climate like Iran, so it is necessary for the government to take the necessary measures to manage the issue, Mousavi-Khansari stated.

Unfortunately, none of the seven candidates who have presented their plans in presidential debates have mentioned the environment and water scarcity, and have only spoken about their plans for economic growth and increased production without considering the environment, he explained.

The presidential election will be held on June 18. The first televised debate between the contenders was held on Saturday afternoon, when almost all of them pointed their fingers at the banking system and economic growth, disregarding the environment and water crisis.Meanwhile, the construction of the smallest factory or the slightest increase in production depends on water, and according to the conditions of the country's water resources, it will only lead to the exploitation of more fragile groundwater resources and the intensification of drought, he added.

He went on to state that “the environment situation and water resources of the country are very fragile, that should be dubbed as water bankruptcy, but none of the candidates discuss the negative points.

Economy, production, and other matters are indirectly dependent on the environment and water. Therefore, it is necessary to use experienced consultants and experts in the field of water, agriculture, and environment in the 13th government in order to prevent problems such as land subsidence, dried wetlands, and sand and dust storms before reaching the irreversible stage.”

Social consequences of drought 

If the government officials have only an economic view without considering the fragile environment of the country, no development and economic growth will be sustainable. Also, if the issue of water shortage, which has widespread social consequences such as migration and increasing suburbanization, is not taken seriously, it cannot be managed, Mousavi-Khansari said.

Even, national TV is not broadcasting any programs about the phenomenon of drought, its effects, and ways to reduce consumption to overcome the problem, he emphasized.

Three types of water scarcity

Pointing that Iran is facing three types of drought, he said that It is a kind of territorial and natural drought that has existed for many years from the past so that a few years of good spells and a few years of drought spells happened in the country.

Our predecessors also thought of measures in connection with drought management, one of which was the invention of the qanat system, which was a way of optimal use of water resources so that during the seasonal rains, rainwater penetrated into the aquifers. Thus, in spring and summer, when the need for water was higher, qanat was used for cultivation, he said.

Another type of drought is caused by climate change, he said, adding that the development of human societies around the world and the consequent overuse of fossil fuels have led to climate change and global warming.

The temperature of the earth has risen by about 1.5 degrees Celsius since before industrialization, and this increase has caused the melting of glaciers.

Also, due to global warming, other altitudes in Iran do not store snow and snowfall melts very quickly, which causes the flow of rivers to change the gradual melting of snow and its penetration into aquifers into flood currents.

“Simultaneously with climate change, we are also witnessing a change in the pattern of precipitation, in the event of climate change, precipitation occurs briefly and reduces the water penetration into aquifers. Therefore, depletion of groundwater resources will be more severe,” he further lamented.

He described the third type of drought as "human-caused" due to the excessive water withdrawal, stating that over the last four decades, there has been a lot of pressure on groundwater resources in the country.

The depletion of groundwater resources has caused a kind of artificial drought that has caused land subsidence in many parts of the country, especially in the south of Tehran, he explained.

Another factor that has caused human drought is the lack of adherence to the patterns of less water-intensive crops and the cultivation of water-intensive crops in the open air. Hence, these unwise actions have led to the intensification of the drought.

This year will be one of the driest years in the last 50 years, which is likely to continue with even greater intensity in the coming years, he further regretted.

80% of groundwater resources withdrawn

Iran is greatly affected by the phenomena, Alireza Shahidi, head of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration told ISNA on Monday.

In the whole world, water resources withdrawal is between 3 to 20 percent, and when it reaches 40 to 60 percent which is considered problematic, and it will be a crisis when exceeding 60-80 percent, Shahidi noted.

“Yet the contribution of groundwater withdrawal to subsidence in Iran is outpacing the world, withdrawing over 80 percent,” he further noted.

Drought impacts on human societies

The drought consequences will be very severe, and as long as we do not manage water consumption, we will attack groundwater resources. All the lakes, rivers, and wetlands of the country have environmental water rights, but in drought conditions, it is always natural ecosystems that are neglected and their water rights are not paid, he said.

In drought conditions, the water right of rivers and wetlands must be granted, but not only does this not happen, but the water goes to agricultural lands where water-intensive crops such as onions and watermelons are grown. Therefore, water resources are wasted, because the Ministry of Agriculture has not succeeded in implementing the cultivation pattern.

Iran is a country where rainfall is one-third of the world average and has gone through many periods of drought throughout history, some of which have led to famine.

However, employment in the country is water-based and based on agriculture. However, due to the dry climate of the country, we should have used the tourism and handicraft capacities of local communities, but unfortunately, we have put all our energy, capital, and focus on agriculture.

During the severe drought of this year, the possibility of migration from rural to urban areas and from southern to northern provinces will definitely increase, he further concluded.



Leave a Comment

1 + 3 =