Yazd Villages Abandoned in Face of Drought
Urbanization is growing in the country. A process that began several decades ago is continuing at a fast pace. More recently, severe drought has exacerbated the trend and led to some rural areas turning into ghost villages.
Overall, rural population has declined in recent decades. The latest census shows that only 28.5% of the country's population lives in the countryside. In Yazd Province in central Iran the situation is worrisome. While the rural population of the province was 38% in 1976, it hit a record low of 17% in 2011. The province has been dealing with drought for many years now and has faced recurrent dry spells in the past 60 years. The current one has been the worst for Yazd and the country at large. Urgent solutions are needed to prevent abandonment of villages.
Mohammad Reza Hatami, head of Yazd's water department says the province has been facing consecutive drought since 1999 with only a two year respite in between. The long dry spell has wreaked havoc on the provincial villages. He notes that the shrinking water supplies have taken a toll on agricultural fields and gardens as well, in an interview with Iran newspaper.
As a result, life for villagers has become difficult. Presently, 600 small towns are facing acute drinking water scarcity due to drying underground reserves. The average annual rainfall in Yazd this year has declined by 43% compared to last year and precipitation by 13%. Hatami said at present 185 villagers are completely dependent on tanker water supply and another 115 villages partially rely on this facility to meet their water needs.
He said "the hurdles are a bigger motivation for people to leave small towns than the attractions in big cities." He maintains that the water crisis has left many rural folk with no option other than migrating to urban areas. Many of the villages have also lost their pristine natural beauty due to the drought. A last recourse for many people is to find jobs in cities, a trend exacerbating and adding to the problems of urban areas too.
The water official says the conservation of existing supplies and responsible management of natural water resources is imperative through judicious distribution of drinking water in cities and towns. Just and equal distribution of water and renovation of the networks to prevent water wastage is also necessary. Planting water-thrifty crops and utilizing mechanized forms of farming are other strategies deemed necessary to tackle the crisis. Finally, building the required infrastructure and launching campaigns to raise awareness about water conservation would be big steps forward to ensure that the crisis does not become further aggravated in the years to come.
The unprecedented movement of people from rural to urban areas is forecast to continue globally and intensify in the next few decades, with cities mushrooming to sizes incomprehensible only a century ago. The United Nations had projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008. By 2050 it is predicted that 64.1% and 85.9% of the developing and developed world respectively will be urbanized.