Khuzestan Needs $42m to Battle Dust Storms

Crews clean a power transformer in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province.Crews clean a power transformer in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province.

The southern Khuzestan Province needs millions of dollars to protect its infrastructure from heavy dust storms that wreak havoc in many parts of the oil-rich province every year, a local energy official said on Saturday.

“To curb the damaging effects of dust and sand storms on Khuzestan's electrical infrastructure, a fund of over 1.64 trillion rials (about $42 million) is required,” Mahmoud Dashtbozorg, managing director of Khuzestan Regional Electricity Company, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

Referring to measures the state-owned company plans to take to prepare for future dust storms, Dashtbozorg said reinforcing and upgrading power transmission lines top its agenda, which cost the company more than 265 billion rials (about $7 million).

The official added that at a later stage, the province will take steps to protect transmission substations with nearly $36 million in government funds.

“In addition, we need to spend more money on maintenance of infrastructure and install gas-insulated substations, instead of the older technology and cheaper air-insulated substations,” he said.

About government plans on sustaining and expanding power grid in Khuzestan, Dashtbozorg stressed that the Cabinet approved a plan in April to allocate 15 trillion rials ($395 million) for the development of the power grid in the province, one-third of which is due to be provided in the current fiscal that started in March.

According to experts, most of the sources of dust storms, which have become more frequent and intense in recent years, are in neighboring Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Another large source of dust storms is the Hoor al-Azim Wetland, which is a lagoon in Khuzestan between Iran and Iraq. Old and obsolete oil extraction methods in Khuzestan and rivers running dry in Iraq have rendered the once thriving wetland all but desiccated.

Besides extensive outages, residents have suffered intermittent water supply cuts and poor mobile and landline connectivity in some areas of Khuzestan as a result of dust storms in recent years.

A UN report in 2016 said the Middle East has been worst hit by the significant rise in sand and dust storms, with major impacts on human health, adding that Iran and Kuwait are the most affected countries, largely because of sand and dust blowing in from Syria and Iraq.


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