A video shared on social media on August 21 showed many residents of Ekbatan town in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz protesting the failure of municipal authorities to provide essential amenities.
Ekbatan town is located in the city’s District 4, known as Golestan, along the banks of Karun River.
After more than a decade of development, the area still lacks crucial infrastructure, including water, gas and sewage services, as well as asphalted roads.
Municipal services, schools, healthcare centers, as well as cafes and restaurants are inexistent.
"Property prices in Ekbatan aren’t significantly different from those in the rest of Golestan… but there’s been no progress in this area over the past 10 years," Abu Tareq, the owner of a real estate agency, told IranWire.
"All the houses have proper documentation, and the location of the town is favorable. However, I’m perplexed as to why it’s not considered part of Ahvaz City,” Tareq said. “Some homeowners who are disheartened by the lack of progress have tried to sell their properties for the past three years, but there have been no takers."
“Their Situation Is Nothing Short of Miserable”
"The majority of Ekbatan's residents are of Arab descent, many having relocated from villages surrounding the steel industries such as Chenibih in search of urban amenities,” said a local cultural activist who wished to remain anonymous. “Unfortunately, this has brought them little more than hardship and health issues.”
"There are no dustbins at all in the streets," the activist continued. "Families resort to piling up their rubbish on the streets, and a rubbish truck comes once a week."
This situation poses a severe sanitation problem, especially during scorching summer days, with leachate seeping from the refuse, insect and vermin infestations and a persistent sewage smell.
The activist pointed out that residents sometimes resort to burning their rubbish in a reedbed behind the settlement.
Without a municipal sewage network, many residents “have resorted to digging wells in their homes as a makeshift solution to sewage disposal,” while others “redirect sewage to the streets or discharge it into [Karun River]."
"The only solace for the residents of this town is that the promise of free water is fulfilled. Otherwise, their situation is nothing short of miserable," the activist said, adding that community members “have staged numerous rallies in front of the District 4 municipality building.”
A Community Without Oversight
Mehran Ahmadi Balutaki, the head of the West Ahvaz Health Center, has said that Ekbatan town is a recently developed district “lacking proper oversight.”
Residents currently rely on Health Center No. 4 in Saadi village and its subsites in Mujahid village for their healthcare needs, he added.
Referring to a March 2018 census, he reported that there were 230 households and nearly 1,000 residents in Ekbatan town at that time. He emphasized that this number has undoubtedly grown since then.
"The question is how construction and completion permits were issued for an area lacking essential infrastructure,” the cultural activist said.
“The prices of many houses here are comparable to those in affluent areas of Ahvaz,” he added. “Some even built stylish houses, but it remains unclear why urban services in this area have been neglected."
“Until the Roads Are Paved, No One Will Address our Needs”
A 48-year-old father of five told IranWire he regretted not buying a house elsewhere in Golestan.
“I wanted to be close to my family; I'm their eldest son. For the past 10 years, every winter when I step outside my house, I lament the amount of mud that clings to my shoes. During the summer, we hesitate to invite guests due to the smell of rubbish, which even seeps in when the air conditioner is running."
When asked about the top priority needed by the residents, the man replied, "Asphalt, ma'am. Until the roads are paved, no one will address our needs."