People, Environment

Khuzestan, Basra to Discuss Environmental Issues

Khuzestan, Basra to Discuss Environmental IssuesKhuzestan, Basra to Discuss Environmental Issues

A meeting between the environment officials of Iran’s Khuzestan and Iraq’s Basra provinces is slated to discuss issues of mutual interest, particularly problems concerning Arvandroud river and Mesopotamian Marshes.

The time and place of the session are to be decided in the upcoming meeting between the governors of the two cities next week, reported.

The subject of Khuzestan and Basra’s environmental issues came up in a meeting on Thursday to discuss the articles of a memorandum of understanding signed in early October 2016 on medical services, university education and energy projects.

The problems of Arvandroud river and Mesopotamian Marshes were the main issues discussed in Thursday’s session.

Arvandroud (known in Arabic as Shatt al-Arab) is a river that flows through both countries. Mesopotamian Marshes are composed of separate but adjacent Central, Hawizeh (Hour al-Azim) and Hammar Marshes. One-third of Hour al-Azim is located within the borders of Iran.

Basra officials called for preserving Arvandroud’s water quality and preventing the release of wastewater into it.

Iran proposed the formation of a joint expert team to monitor the river’s water quality regularly, which was welcomed by the Iraqi side.

Iranian officials also called for the prevention of fishing in the Iraqi side of Arvandroud during the ban imposed by Iran.

“During the spawning season of marine animals when fishing is prohibited in Khuzestan (early March until early May), Iraqi fishermen continue to hunt these sea creatures, which will damage fish reserves,” said Ahmadreza Lahijanzadeh, the head of Khuzestan’s office of the Department of Environment.

Basra officials pledged to place a ban on their side of the river during this period.

The desiccation of wetlands in Iraq has been a major cause of drastic dust storms in southwestern Iran, particularly Khuzestan. Iran, therefore, urged Iraqi authorities to take measures to respect the water rights of Mesopotamian wetlands in northern Basra.

According to Basra authorities, Iraq has envisioned plans to direct water into dry wetlands but Turkey’s massive dam construction projects continue to hinder these efforts.

Besides dust and sand, smoke from Majnoon oilfield in Basra, which dominates west-to-east winds blowing toward Khuzestan, also affect the province’s air quality.

“We also asked them to make plans to control oil flares and will further discuss the issue in the upcoming meeting,” said Lahijanzadeh.

Mesopotamian or Iraqi Marshes are a wetland area located in southern Iraq as well as southwestern Iran and Kuwait. It used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of western Eurasia.

Iraq’s previous government dried much of these wetlands. In 2002, the United Nations Environment Program referred to the desiccation of these marshes as one of the environmental disasters of the century and warned Iran and Iraq about its consequences.

The Iranian section of Hour al-Azim has undergone serious damage as a result of human activities, too. The construction of Karkheh dam and roads, especially during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), and oil extractions have inflicted the biggest damage on the wetland.



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