Nature Saving the Hamouns

Nature Saving the HamounsNature Saving the Hamouns

Following days of unremitting rainfall and serious discussions between the Department of Environment (DoE) and the government of Afghanistan to uphold the water rights of Iran's side of the Hamouns, the imperiled wetlands seem to be filling with much needed water.

Due to changes triggered by perpetual regional droughts, Hamoun-e Sabari – one of the three lakes that form the Hamoun Wetlands – is in dire need of excavation to create a slope and facilitate the flow of water downstream to other parts of the wetlands, ISNA reported on Sunday.

Quoting the official DoE website, the news agency reported that the Sistan and Baluchestan office of the DoE has been striving to ensure that water rights of the Iranian portion of the Hamouns are upheld by Afghanistan.

Local news outlet Nimrooz also reported that the Hamouns are expected to continue their natural restoration, should the heavy rains continue in Afghanistan. The recent rainfall has been a sort of blessing, filling the Farah River in Afghanistan, which feeds Hamoun-e Sabari.

The Hamouns are transboundary wetlands on the Iran-Afghan border and are comprised of three lakes; Hamoun-e Helmand which is entirely in Iran, Hamoun-e Sabari, and Hamoun-e Puzak, which extend into Afghan territory with the latter being almost entirely inside the neighboring country. The three lakes are linked and fed by water from Afghanistan's Helmand River.

In an Op-Ed written in 2013 after visiting the Hamouns, United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Iran Gary Lewis said, "'Wetlands' is really not the right word, for these are parched lands."

"Twenty years ago, most of this area was green.  Flora and fauna were abundant.  The lake teemed with fish. The total annual catch used to exceed 12,000 tons.  Fishermen would regularly haul in fish weighing 20kgs.  The wetlands also supported agriculture and water buffalo herds, providing a livelihood for thousands of families."

However, the development of dams and canals in Afghanistan led to water being drawn off to feed agriculture in the poor Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Nimrooz, causing water levels in the lakes to plummet. To make matters worse, four reservoirs were built within Iran itself, diverting more water and speeding up the desiccation of the wetlands.