According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2011, Ahwaz city had the worst air pollution in the world marked by “the highest count of small airborne particles out of 1,100 urban areas around the world,” that can cause “asthma, heart disease and lung cancer.”
The resulting environmental and health situations are steadily getting worse in large part due the negligence or strategy of intentional neglect that the Iranian regime adopted regarding the lives of the ethnic Arab residents of Alahwaz. The pollution in Ahwaz has variety of causes. One of these causes is the combustion of petroleum products, which produces a wide range of toxic gases that are harmful to the human health and to the ecosystem. In an official announcement, the head of local Environmental Protection office warned that the effects of emissions to the health resulted from burning and proliferating half million cubic feet toxic gases daily by local petroleum companies. He noted that these gases and smokes rush into the air of Ahwaz city causing an increase in respiratory diseases as well as obscuring vision.
Another reason for pollution in Alahwaz is the sugar cane project, which is funded largely by the state with the direct budget from oil’s revenues. However the industry is not geared toward developing either a means of meeting the demand in Iran for sugar or toward curing the problem of unemployment among Ahwazi Arabs. Rather the industry has developed in a way to promote demographic change in the region and luring non-Arabs to displace the indigenous Arabs of the region. This preplanned process has been widely implemented in the area and could bring non-Arabs from villages and rural areas to Alahwaz (Khouzestan) and settle them with generous incentives to establish a long term presence in the region.
The sugar cane project causeed pollution by contaminating the drinking water and increasing the salintiy of water available for agricultural use, preventing Ahwazi farmers from having enough water to irrigate their farms. Also the burning of sugar canes’ excessive waste causes an increase in toxic gases. After years spent on this project, many of officials are now talking about the ending of this inefficient project and condemning those who agreed to institute it. Recent statements from various top officials show a blame game among them as the smoke went blinded the eyes of Alahwaz’s residents.
The third factor in causing air and water pollution in Alahwaz is the drying of wetlands and marshes by the regime in order to seek and extract more oil from the region without considering the impact of these activities to its ecosystem and its residents. The regime’s passion for discovering oil has turned these greenhouse environments to desert unfit for lives for sea creatures , livestock and even humans.
Many Ahwazi farmers have found no way to stay and been forced to migrate to other miserable places on the outskirts of the cities and shanty towns. Nowadays almost all sand storms overwhelm Alahwaz originate in these deserts, which, in turn, seriously burden the lives of millions of Ahwazis and local residents by causing respiratory diseases which require immediate treatment. Also recent dust storms that swept Alahwaz have also caused the interruption of utilities such power and water, as well as other official services across the province.
After the long Iran-Iraq war, which directly affected Ahwazi Arab region more than other Iranian areas in terms of demolition and destruction, there have been a number security plans devised by the Iranian regime for Alahwaz aimed at manipulating the majority Arab population in favor of non-Arabs. However, compelling evidence of a number of these plans have been leaked to the public and their contents revealed. All of them receive in large measure money, funded directly from the capital, Tehran. All of these pollution incidents seem to be organised and proposed plans and policies by the Iranian regime to destroy the land of Ahwazi Arabs and displace them to another provinces and not as what the regimes claims as “nature fury” or ” divine exam.” The recent mass demonstrations in February of this year against regime’s continued inhumane disregard of the region, was a message from the heart of the Ahwazi people that they are not willing to accept such abject misery anymore.
Ahwazi Arabs appeal to all human rights, civil, political organisations to influence the regime and to listen and respond to their legitimate demands for dignified life on their historical lands and those resources inherited from their ancestors. They also call on those organizations to pressure the Iranian regime to comply with its obligations and international treaties to protect both its citizens and the environment and allow international observers to visit the region routinely. They also emphasize that the practical steps must be implemented on the ground.