Light rainfall, drought and inappropriate human behavior have aggravated the water crisis in Iran. So much so that many Iranian specialists and officials explain that it could lead to protests. Explanation

Iran is the 19th largest country in the world, with a surface area of ​​1,648,195 square kilometers. To the north, it is bordered by the Caspian Sea, and to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. However, the area covered by water represents only 0.72% of the country, which receives three times less annual rainfall than world average. The Iranian river system includes very few major rivers, and most rivers and lakes are dry for most of the year. Lake Urmia in the north-west of the country, recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve, illustrates a situation of increasing concern. Since the construction of many dams on the tributary rivers of the lake in the 1980s, its surface area has been constantly declining and it has lost 95% of its water. Water management in Iran is therefore a major issue for the 82 million inhabitants of the country.

Several factors are at the root of the crisis: Iranian population has doubled in the last forty years, there is a high degree of pollution caused by industrial discharges and uncontrolled discharges of sewage, and water is used massively for agriculture (representing more than 90% of annual water consumption). Activities such as the systematic construction of dams and individual boreholes have only worsened the situation, which had already been rendered untenable through lack of modern equipment ; a direct consequence of international sanctions. Hamid Chitchian, the Rohani government's energy minister, acknowledged the seriousness of the crisis: "Water-related issues across the country have become acute and no region is spared," he stated on August 5th, 2017 to Iranian media.

Consequences and reactions

The consequences on the soil are dramatic: loss of fertility and decline in production, loss of groundwater and land subsidence. Access to drinking water has become increasingly difficult. Major cities like Isfahan are in a critical situation, and thousands of villages have to resort to obtaining water from tanker trucks.

In Iran, the lack of water resources is also likely to have serious socio-economic consequences. On the one hand, the desertification of many areas can lead to significant population displacement; already reflected by the increasing number of abandoned villages. If the revitalization policy of Lake Urmia, which is on the point of drying up completely, should fail, the lives of more than 14 million people would be in danger. The water shortage is also likely to cause serious social unrest; in a context where the regime is already confronted by regular tension. The water crisis is a key trigger in current protests.

In response, the Iranian government is attempting to implement measures such as the transfer of water from the Caspian Sea to the arid regions, and its desalination. All in all, peaceful relations with the international community could help Iran to move towards better cooperation with regard to water and improved situation. In the various fields related to the water sector, the know-how of European and particularly French companies in the field of desalination and agri-food would allow the Iranian government to pre-empt the social crisis it currently seems to fear. Some figures are indeed frightening: whereas in 1979, over-consumption of water throughout the country was 100 million m3 per year, in 2017 it reached 11 billion m3.

Masoud Bagherzadeh Karimi, deputy head of the main Office for Environmental Control, said, with regard to the water issue: "We welcome any assistance under international laws and rules", expressing gratitude for cooperation from Japan, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey ...

Because of this water scarcity, the Iranian regime is likely to face a serious socio-economic crisis in the coming months and years, and its dependence on imports of agricultural produce will certainly increase ...

13/06/2018 - Toute reproduction est interdite.

Un poisson mort repose sur la rivière Zayanderood asséchée, avec le pont Khajoo en arrière-plan, à Ispahan, le 27 juin 2008.
De Jade Ouvrard