Ebtekar Says DoE Striving to Alleviate Dust Storm Plight

Ebtekar Says DoE Striving to Alleviate Dust Storm Plight Ebtekar Says DoE Striving to Alleviate Dust Storm Plight

Vice-President and Head of the Department of Environment Masumeh Ebtekar's inability to visit Khuzestan because her flight didn't take off comes amid reports of Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi's arrival in the pollution-battered province.

Her absence in the crisis-hit region has created an open field to powerful critics of the DoE, and by extension, political opponents of the government who say the issue has left the people of the southern region "heartbroken." Some have gone so far as to claim that he her alleged "lack of action is unforgivable," the Persian-language media said at the weekend.

 "I have been diligently monitoring following the situation in Khuzestan," she says in her defense, adding,  "I have sent two reports to the Majlis (on the dust storm crises) and met Hashemi where it was decided that he go to the provincial capital Ahvaz as the government's representative."

Ebtekar has outlined the government's program to combat the dust storms battering Khuzestan. The Rouhani  administration is set to approve a budget of an undisclosed amount on Sunday to help ease the worsening air pollution plight. Once the funding is approved, a meeting will be had between the DoE, environmentalists and academics before the DoE chief finally arrives in Ahvaz to see the crises at close range.

According to Ebtekar, the government's short-term plans will be implemented and monitored by the ministry of health and the Iran Meteorological Organization.

  Need for Long-Range Solutions  

Dismayed and despairing Iranians have been voicing concern on social media, and Ebtekar is aware of the criticisms. In an interview with the Persian-language online news agency Khabar-Online, she spoke about her long-delayed visit to oil-rich Khuzestan along with other government officials and said, "This problem cannot be solved within a year or two."

“We are currently experiencing a period of drought which makes matters worse. Now the region’s soil has also lost a large portion of its moisture…the slightest breeze is enough to send the soil flying.”

She said dust particles which make their way into Iran from neighboring Iraq and Saudi Arabia have made a bad situation worse. “It is visible that the work done by those in the past governments was simply not enough. Between 300,000 to 400,000 hectares of land are now in need of proper land/soil management.”

In addition to sources of dust pollution in Khuzestan created by the mismanagement – such as the desiccation of Hoor al-Azim Wetland, Ebtekar opined that dust particles flowing intor Iran from war-ravaged Iraq and Saudi Arabia add to the misery of the region.

“The government is dedicated to arresting the problem, but we cannot give people false promises,” she admitted. “For now we need to receive warnings of impending dust storms in order to make provisions and allow people enough time to leave the streets.”

According to the senior official “Nevertheless, in order to tackle this problem on both national and international scales, we need time and effort.”

Ebtekar’s stance lends credence to the fact that the DoE plans, at least for now, are focused on helping to keep the people safe from the mounting negative health impacts of the dust and particulate storms that have enveloped the region for the past several days closing down schools and offices in some provinces.