People, Environment

Energy Ministry Blamed for Khuzestan’s Dust Storms

Travel & Environment Desk
Energy Ministry Blamed for Khuzestan’s Dust StormsEnergy Ministry Blamed for Khuzestan’s Dust Storms

Eight hundred and seventy-two kilometers: That is the distance Amir Mombeini, an environmental activist based in Ramhormoz, Khuzestan Province, rode on his bicycle to reach Tehran to raise awareness about the protracted struggle of Khuzestan’s residents with dust and sand storms.

An active member of a local NGO, Mombeini set out on his long, arduous journey in the scorching summer heat on June 24 and arrived in the Iranian capital on July 2, but was quickly admitted to a hospital due to shortness of breath and low blood pressure.

Mombeini carried a petition signed by Khuzestan’s residents, imploring government officials to back up their words with effective action and mitigate the impact of dust storms on the province.

Southwestern Iran and especially Khuzestan are bearing the brunt of dust storms that have increased in both frequency and intensity in recent years. While a majority of dust and sand storms originate beyond Iran’s borders—in Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia—domestic sources have grown in size due to a variety of factors, most of which are manmade.

“We don’t expect the Department of Environment to do anything of substance; they lack the necessary political clout and financial backing,” Mombeini told Financial Tribune on the phone.

Instead, Khuzestan’s residents point the finger of blame firmly at the Energy Ministry.

“Actions by the ministry in the past and present governments have only exacerbated our problem,” he said.

He said the ministry’s affinity for dam construction and water schemes has dried up rivers and wetlands in the arid province, turning them into barren lands that contribute heavily to dust storms.

“I’ve told this to every news outlet that has interviewed me, but not a single one has written about our grievance (regarding the Energy Ministry’s actions),” he said.

On Sunday, Mombeini was expecting to meet Mohammad Reza Tabesh, the chairman of the Environment and Sustainable Development Faction at the Majlis (parliament), but after waiting for six hours he only got to meet the lawmaker’s staff.

“They were sympathetic toward our problem, but didn’t disclose details of what they intend to do about it,” he said, barely able to contain his disappointment.

“They said short-term solutions such as mulching must be carried out by provincial officials, while the government’s long-term plan will take at least six years and requires significant funding.”

Mombeini was scheduled to meet DOE chief Massoumeh Ebtekar and Tabesh on Monday, but reiterated that he did not expect anything of substance to emerge from the meetings.

“It’s up to the Energy Ministry to make a move, because no other entity has the power,” he said.