Iran’s Water Bankruptcy Can Push the People to Regime Change

The mullahs have turned Iran into a “Water-Bankrupt Nation”, wrote Iran’s exiled crown prince Reza Pahlavi. It is more than a looming environmental disaster. It is a present life-and-death matter. Iranians who have nothing more to lose will destroy the Islamic prison state that destroyed their lives.

Iran has faced a major shortage of rainfall over the past few decades. Over the long term on average, Iran has been consuming more water than nature can replenish. When surface water was not enough, people and the government went to groundwater for new supplies. They are now facing the terrible consequences.

Rivers resources and riparian areas have never been properly managed in the four decades since the Khomeinist regime seized power. It has become a disaster. Riparian wetlands and even runoff from arid and semi-arid areas play an extremely important role in keeping Iran’s watersheds healthy.

But environmental issues never factor into the thinking of the Islam-obsessed kleptocrats who rule Iran. Such issues would only matter in a system that would respect its citizens, who would have rights. The regime of the mullahs neither protects the environment nor cares for any rights of Iranian citizens.

According to a review of the national budget, the regime dedicates at least 80 times more money to religious propaganda, religious education, and religious ritual than it does to disaster relief. As a result of that gross negligence, chronic overuse of such natural resources as water and soil have caused the water crisis Iranians face today.

But it is much worse than simple neglect. For financial gain, the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) backed crony construction gangs who were given monopolies to build multiple dams across the waterways. These projects were not based on any expert review or ecosystem needs. As a result, many areas of the country were turned from wetland to wasteland.

“Recent floods in Iran are not just a result of rising rainfall. Environmental manipulation and degradation and unsustainable development have caused many Iranian citizens to die in the recent days. For example, in Shiraz, the municipality first blocked a valley near the city's famous Qura Gate and replaced everything with a road and park and other fancy structures. Experts had warned city officials of the consequences of this big mistake”, said journalist Nikahang Kowsar, a researcher and analyst of the ongoing water crisis in Iran.

A nation’s healthy water supply is fundamental to sustainable economic development, security and social well-being. Iran’s serious water crisis due to mismanagement is compounded by climate change, environmental degradation and frequent drought. Iran is listed among 24 countries where water status is considered at risk. The water crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing the country. Most people in the West would find it hard to imagine life without access to fresh water. But some areas in Iran have totally dried out. People have fled their villages, and moved to the cities, just for water.

Although extreme rainfall has caused floods across the country in the past months, it remains too early to predict whether Iran has escaped from the drought season and entered a wet season. Iran’s complex, variable climate is due to its location in the dry belt of the world. Nearly 70% of its area is located in arid and semi-arid regions.

Drought is a leading cause of unemployment in Iran. Farmers, fishermen, and low-income villagers are hit the hardest. Drinking water for 6,500 villages across the country had to be delivered in tanks, the IRGC-run Fars News reported in 2016. Ten thousand fish turned up dead in the Hoor al-Azim wetlands of Khuzestan province, due to drought, reported Tabnak. Eleven prominent villages near Salt Lake in Qom Province were abandoned because of drought.

Gorgan Gulf is drying out, while the Islamic Iranian officials remain silent. Citizens have taken to cyberspace to express their concerns by using the hashtag #SaveGorganGulf.

Gorgan Gulf after and before the drought. Photo credit to grass-roots reporters.

The water crisis plays a role in ongoing unrest across Iran, as many villagers went out in the streets last year to protest against the mismanagement and water shortages. In late December of 2018, villagers of Varzaneh, Isfahan province gathered in public to show their anger at the failed government response to drought of the Zayanderud River. The peaceful rally was brutally raided by anti-riot forces of the Islamic regime.

On February 14, 2018, the local farmers turned their backs to the Friday prayer leader as a gesture of their disdain, while they chanted anti-regime slogans. They shouted “Turning back to enemy, facing the country.” The IRGC-run Tasnim News acknowledged the problem, as they wrote, “Zayanderud River totally dried out until further notice; 90% of the reservoir is empty.”

The Ministry of Energy also commented, noting that in most months of the year, the dams in Iran hold less than 50% of their water capacity. In 2017, I published this photographic study of drought in southeast Iran.

A stable water supply is essential to people’s lives, as well as to industrial and agricultural development. When not properly managed, it can create conflict and destroy society. Many Iranians are now turning to groundwater to try to resolve their shortages. Around 61% of water in the country is supplied by surface water and 39% by groundwater. According to official statistics, 750,000 wells are operational in Iran, 330,000 of which are illegal.

And now both surface and groundwater resources are being further threatened because of poor control on the discharges of domestic and industrial wastewater. Water is being polluted in the country. As the populations grow in the cities, they cause even more water pollution. However, wastewater runoff in the agricultural sector is the main water pollution problem, because it consumes 90% of Iran’s water resources.

Iran has a very young population, which has more than doubled since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. That runaway growth is one of the difficulties challenging the country’s search for adequate resources. Further compounding the problem is the Tehran regime’s failure in regional diplomacy over cross-border waters.

Experts in the international community must bring pressure upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to change its negligent policy on consumption of Iran’s water resources, before scarcity and pollution dry up supplies for entire cities and displace millions.

“We cannot solve this crisis,” Al Jazeera quotes Kaveh Madani. “And a crisis is exactly what it is becoming: Rivers and lakes are going dry one after another, we're losing wetlands, we're seeing land subsidence, we're seeing desertification, which is really sad.” The country needs to radically rethink its attitude to water use, Madani added.

Solutions have been raised by experts. But if the Islamic regime tyrants continue to rule, their indifference and incompetence around such non-Islamic matters as a nation’s water needs is forming a looming crisis in the country.

So as the people grow increasingly frustrated, we will see more widespread demonstrations across Iran, such as the country has experienced it in the past two years. Iranians’ unrest will continue, with anti-government slogans, fueled by rage over drought and water mismanagement that is wrecking their lives. The regime cannot suppress massive demonstrations across the country, when those demonstrators have nothing left to lose.

The upcoming protests on this issue, and more, will certainly overthrow the Islamic regime. The people are at their limit. Is the West ready to stand with those Iranians? Their life-and-death list of issues has grown to include the one of “Saving Iran from a Regime That is Killing its Natural Resources,” as wrote Iranian exiled crown prince Reza Pahlavi, in his Huffington Post column. It is mostly a matter of when the rational countries of the world will be ready to support the people in bringing that regime change, to welcome Iran back out of its totalitarian prison of archaic and irrational Islamic Law.

By: Kaveh Taheri, a Turkey-based Iranian Human Rights researcher and journalist, co-founder and chairman of the ICBHR.Com and American Truth Project Contributor.

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