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Crippling Dust Storms to Persist Throughout Summer
People, Environment

Crippling Dust Storms to Persist Throughout Summer

According to Iran’s Meteorological Organization, dust storms that have battered large areas of the country recently are expected to persist until the end of summer.
Ali Abedini, development and forecast deputy at IMO, told ISNA that dust storms often begin in the Iranian month of Ordibehesht (April-May), and continue until the end of summer, but gradually decline with the onset of autumn (September-November).
“With the arrival of the warm summer season, the earth’s surface in Jordan, Syria and Iraq dry up, loosening small particles that are lifted and blown toward Iran by gusty winds,” said Abedini.
The phenomenon often hits western provinces, including Bushehr, Khuzestan, Ilam, Kurdestan, West Azarbaijan and East Azarbaijan, but it also affects Lorestan, Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari, Fars, Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad and even Tehran to some extent.
The city of Zabol in Sistan-Baluchestan Province in southeastern Iran is also a victim of sand storms originating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as domestic sources. These conditions are caused by the so-called “120-day winds” in the warmer months and are exacerbated by the desiccation of Hamoun Wetlands.  
Abedini added that IMO has been tasked with forecasting the strength of winds and measuring the moisture content of soil so as to enable the prediction of storms before they are formed.
The official stressed that although a great part of the storms have sources beyond Iran’s borders, domestic sources must not be neglected.
“The recent dust storms in Qom and Isfahan originated from the surrounding deserts,” said Abedini, emphasizing that both foreign and domestic sources must be tackled concurrently.
Experts believe domestic sources contribute to 20% of the dust and sand storms.
The existence of particulate matter in the air directly affects public health, especially in the border regions of the country.
“Therefore, to reduce and mitigate the impact of dust storms, it is essential to publicize hygienic solutions and urge locals to use masks,” he said.
On Sunday, state bodies gathered at the Interior Ministry to discuss environmental issues, including dust storms. Suggestions were submitted and will be communicated to relevant organizations soon, but the precise details of the meeting have not yet been disclosed.
Massoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Department of Environment, told reporters on Tuesday that her department spoke with Iraqi environment officials the day before and that a memorandum of understanding will be signed between Tehran and Baghdad to task Iraq with managing the sources of dust in their territories.   
“The Iraqi officials have formed a committee to identify and suppress sources of dust in the country,” she was quoted as saying by IRNA.
However, due to Iraq’s struggle with domestic terrorism perpetrated by the self-styled Islamic State, or Daesh, terrorist group, tackling environmental problems may not be a priority for the Iraqi government.
Ebtekar added that DOE is also focusing on the restoration of desiccating wetlands in Khuzestan, Isfahan and Sistan-Baluchestan, adding that the Forests, Range and Watershed Organization has been instructed to plant saplings in strategic locations to control the spread of dust.

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