Kurdestan Bracing for Intense Dust Storms

With wind speeds picking up and temperatures rising, Kurdestan is expected to be hit by intense storms originating in Iraq in the coming days
Particulate matter concentrations in Kurdestan spiked on Saturday, but they are expected to decline and rise again in the coming days.
Particulate matter concentrations in Kurdestan spiked on Saturday, but they are expected to decline and rise again in the coming days.

Kurdestan Province in western Iran, which borders Iraq, saw a spike in particulate matter concentrations on Saturday but the chief provincial meteorologist said the worst is yet to come.

Speaking to Mehr News Agency, Mohammad Taleb Heydari added that because of the gradual rise in temperature in Iran and changes in wind direction, Kurdestan and other western provinces will be hit by heavy dust and sand storms.

"Dust storm hotspots in Iraq are active and western provinces, particularly Kurdestan, must make arrangements as soon as possible," he said.

Due to windy conditions in Kurdestan, concentrations of particulate matter are expected to drop soon, "but it won't last because in the coming days we'll have to deal with dust storms".

Heydari said hard times are ahead and conditions will be worse than they are today.

Although about 75% of dust storm emissions worldwide come from natural (as opposed to manmade) sources, the vast majority of hotspots that contribute to these storms in Iran and the Middle East are caused by human activities.

Major domestic sources of dust storms lie in Khuzestan Province in the southwest and Sistan-Baluchestan Province in the southeast. While at certain times their contribution to dust and storms in Iran is far greater than the hotspots found beyond the country's borders, experts agree that foreign sources play a more prominent role in Iran's predicament.

Sources in Saudi Arabia, Syria and particularly Iraq contribute to a greater share of particulates found in the storms that frequently hit western Iran.

 Due to Iraq’s struggle to combat the terrorism perpetrated by the self-styled Islamic State militant group, tackling environmental problems is not a priority of the Iraqi government. Furthermore, the water policies of regional countries—particularly Turkey—have compounded Iran’s struggle with dust and sandstorms, as Turkey's excessive dam construction has choked off water flow to Iraq and Syria.

The government has earmarked $100 million to combat dust storms in the current fiscal year, which began on March 21.

While the budget of $100 million is about a quarter of what experts say is needed to effectively tackle dust storms arising in Iran, what worries environmentalists is that the administration of President Hassan Rouhani might not be able to come up with the money.

Environmental projects rarely receive all the budget they are promised. Even publicized restoration programs such as that of Urmia Lake in the northwest do not get the funding they need.

Nevertheless, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, the head of Management and Planning Organization, promised last month that “the government will supply the budget to the last dime”.

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