Isfahan will become uninhabitable in less than 10 years if nothing is done about its water resources, a member of the Iranian parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Water and Natural Resources has announced.
The water shortage in Isfahan is as serious as it is in Khuzestan, Mohammad Taghi Naghd-Ali, a cleric and parliamentarian representing Khomeini Shahr in Isfahan province, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) on August 6. He also highlighted how the two very dire crises were linked. “In some provinces hundreds of thousands of hectares have been dedicated to growing rice and this shows that our management [of resources] is regional, not national...Khuzestan’s problem is not shortage of water resources but mismanagement that has caused problems in both agriculture and drinking water. Today 90,000 hectares in Khuzestan are dedicated to rice cultivation, which needs a lot of water: three billion cubic meters.”
Currently, he pointed out, water is diverted from Marbar River in Semirom in Isfahan to Karun-3 Dam in Khuzestan, even though Isfahan itself is in dire need of water, as is Khuzestan.
Naghd-Ali said that opening up the dam on Zayandeh Rud, the river that runs through the city of Isfahan, on a permanent basis to irrigate orchards and agricultural land is not possible. “But we believe that it should be opened temporarily to prevent trees from withering...Fruit trees are the lungs of the people of Isfahan and also provide many of them with their livelihood, so we must not allow them to dry up. If the orchards perish then we will have even more environmental problems. We must open Zayandeh Rud dam on a temporary basis.”
He also emphasized that the necessary budget to solve Isfahan’s water problems and pay compensation to farmers had been submitted to parliament but so far not been approved.
Zayandeh Rud Dam has the capacity to hold 1.4 billion cubic meters of water and, in normal circumstances, it holds between 700 to 800 million cubic meters but, Naghd-Ali said, at the moment there is only 300 million cubic meters of water behind the dam.
Over the last month, water crises in a number of Iranian provinces have triggered mass protests. It started in Khuzestan and spread. As has become almost customary in the Islamic Republic, the protests were brutally suppressed, with many demonstrators facing arrest, sustaining injuries and even being killed.
Livestock and Livelihoods at Risk
The ongoing water crisis has also taken a toll on the livestock population in many provinces.
“There is not enough feed for the cattle because pastures have dried up and many cattle owners cannot buy fodder because they do not have the cash,” Mansour Pouryan, the head of the National Cattle Supply Council, told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on August 6. “Butchers are reporting a deterioration in the quality of the beef they purchase, including a rise in the number of holes in cows’ livers. This is due to severe thirst and hunger...feed and water shortages have affected their health and fertility.”
Pouryan blamed the slump in the red meat industry on the rising costs of animal husbandry and Iran's depressed market, saying it has turned into a “loss-making profession” and that investors are fleeing to other sectors. He also said overarching economic problems and the Covid-19 pandemic had further contributed to the decline in the market.
He said that, at the moment the consumption of red meat in Iran is almost half of what it has been in recent years: previously, 880,000 tons had been normally been purchased by consumers, but that had fallen to 500,000 tons — and yet 880,000 tons of red meat was still being produced in the same period.
Pouryan said the only temporary, short-term solution to the problem was to export the excess cattle and keep only the amount that could reliably be supported by the amounts of water and healthy pastures available, as well as the demand in the domestic market.