DOE's Khuzestan Water Approach Triggers Row

DOE's Khuzestan Water Approach Triggers RowDOE's Khuzestan Water Approach Triggers Row

The Department of Environment's water management plan in Khuzestan for supplying water to the central plateau has raised the ire of environmental activists and provincial officials. The plan is expected to help save about 3 billion cubic meters of water for the agriculture sector, Mehr News Agency reported.

The DOE has proposed that the amount saved could be supplied to the central provinces while lawmakers and environmentalists argue that it should only feed the desiccating wetlands and rivers of Khuzestan.  Houman Khakpour, an environmental activist, said Khuzestan Province's wetlands have all turned into dust storm hotspots and upholding their water rights is a top priority.

"The management programs that the DOE has rightly proposed must be targeted at restoring wetlands and rivers, but the top environmental body seems to be reluctant," he said.

"The DOE seeks to justify water supply projects without caring if such plans are feasible," he said, accusing the DOE chief, Isa Kalantari, of serving the interests of vested interest groups.

Kalantari was recently involved in a serious row with lawmakers over the proposition, a video of which went viral.

He maintained that Khuzestan is not facing a water shortage, but gross mismanagement of the resource, while parliamentarians argued that the province is suffering from a water crisis that has caused wetlands and rivers to dry up and generate dust storms. Qaem Saedi, a lawmaker from Khuzestan, later told YJC that Kalantari has made an unprofessional decision without considering the conditions of Khuzestan and neighboring provinces.

"He has declared that Khuzestan has over 1 billion cubic meters of extra water while dust particles rising from dried lands have been choking the people of the province," he said.

"Kalantari is either not specialized in this field or is involved in political plans that aim to suffocate five million people," he added, going as far as to threaten to impeach the president if the government does not back down from the decision.

The DOE chief, however, insists that Khuzestan's problem is water wastage and not shortage. In a talk with the Persian daily Sharq, Kalantari explained that over 3 billion cubic meters can be saved by eliminating rice cultivation (in line with the policies of the Agriculture Ministry) and reducing water consumption in sugarcane fields by half, along with the implementation of government schemes to optimize farming.

"This is while only 1.5 billion cubic meters are needed for Khuzestan's environment," he said. Kalantari stressed that as long as environmental water rights are respected, the extra amount can be used elsewhere, depending on the decision of the Energy Ministry.  "Besides, the whole amount of water claimed from Karun River for other provinces is only 700 million cubic meters per year," he said, adding that this should not raise concerns as much larger amounts are being wasted.


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