Dust Storms Attributed to Oil Exploration

Dust Storms Attributed to Oil Exploration  Dust Storms Attributed to Oil Exploration

Draining Khuzestan's wetlands to drill oil wells is the root cause of the dust storm that's swept across the southern province recently, an official from forests, range and watershed management organization told ISNA on Saturday.

"Ignoring environmental protection regulations has serious consequences for the society. Draining Hoor al-Azim Wetland to drill oil wells is a clear violation of those principles," Behzad Angouraj, the organization's deputy director warned.

Hoor al-Azim is a protected area and any operation in the region requires permission from the relevant authorities; however, this has been neglected so far, he added.

Refilling the wetlands and observing their water rights are among the short-term measures that can help tackle dust storm problem in Khuzestan Province, Angouraj stated. In the meantime, tracking and plowing dry farmlands and pastures that contribute little to agriculture should stop as they reduce the wetlands' water quota, leading to desertification and a subsequent dust storm, according to Angouraj.

Elsewhere, head of the Department of Environment (DOE) Masoumeh Ebtekar said that tackling the problem requires long-term planning as temporary arrangements have proven futile.

She said that draining of the Hoor al-Azim Wetland during the tenure of ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was to blame mainly for the recent air pollution problems. "In late 1990s, when Mohammad Khatami was president, the oil ministry had requested exploration operations to be carried out on joint fields in the area. The provincial DoE authorized them for the operations provided that the wetland would not be drained," she said. "As the administration changed, the first thing they (Ahmadinejad government) did was to close the dam feeding the wetland and dried out the wetland completely. Then they started drilling on several parts of the wetland.”

Heavy dust storms have swept across Khuzestan Province over the past two weeks, forcing local authorities to shut down schools, universities, and other governmental offices.

The local environmental protection office announced that the density of dust particles in the air reached 9.985 micrograms per cubic meter, registering a record pollution 66 times greater than the healthy limit.

In recent years, dust storms in the western part of Iran have grown in frequency and density. They have on occasions caused serious respiratory problems for the locals.