The London digital magazine, Kayhan, has linked the arrest and death during the imprisonment of Kavous Seyed Emami, a prominent environmentalist, along with his colleagues, who recently died in an airplane crash, to leaked reports of the grave consequences of Iran’s nuclear activities.
The leaks referred to the destructive impacts of the IRGC-led projects, including the establishment of dams and the diversion of waterways. Under pressure from the environmentalists, the government of Iran was hindered and finally driven to interrupt, for the time being, its destructive practices. Along with other efforts, Emami and his colleagues shipped samples of rare animals and plants to foreign research centers, as is in accordance with applicable regulations. As a result, samples of some plants and reptiles, including a turtle, a lizard and a chameleon, were taken and sent to research centers in the US.
Studies conducted by these centers revealed traces of radioactive elements in the bodies of these animals and plants. Researchers also noted that the water from natural sources adjacent to Iran’s nuclear plants contains traces of radioactive materials. Subsequent investigations have revealed that these contaminated substances have reached residential water supplies. Water polluted by these materials has leaked to canals, infecting crops watered from these sources. On several occasions, research by environmentalists has exposed Iran’s ongoing nuclear activities. The areas close to the nuclear sites are highly contaminated.
The information available to the public, however, remains restricted. As a result, it is hard to know exactly when local animals and plants were polluted by radioactive substances.It is possible that the research centers have not shared all of the information ascertained from the studies of the specimens received, so more serious threats to the health of the local population should not be discarded. It is also unclear whether Emami and his colleague were specifically researching the impact of radioactive contamination or if they had discovered the contamination as a result of work around other environmental concerns. It is clear, however, that the government of Iran attempted to conceal the arrest of Emami and other environmental researchers. After the controversial death of Emami, whom Iranian authorities say committed suicide, the government of Iran has attempted to clamp down tightly on further leaks of information. In fact, it is the Iranian government’s claims that it is taking precautions against a Mossad operation that have given rise to speculation that the radioactive contamination is linked to Iran’s missile development program.
Hassan Fairuz Abadi, the military advisor to the regime, has even claimed that the United States is using the chameleon and lizard specimens to justify spying on Iran. Fairouz Abadi’s statement follows an earlier declaration by the head of the Civil Defense Authority, Gholamreza Jalali, who in another speech on the infiltration of plant genes and the contamination of water in biochemical warfare, said that “the enemy”, through genetic manipulation in viruses and bacteria, is seeking to employ bio-terrorist attacks against Iran. Given the links drawn by Iranian government officials themselves, it is reasonable to speculate that there is a connection between the arrest of environmentalists and researchers, the suspicious crash of the Asman aircraft, which occurred shortly after the arrests, and the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
One area that is said to have been severely hit in recent years by radioactive contamination is the Bushehr coast, the place where waste and the disposal of atomic plants are poured into the waters of the Arabian Gulf. The Gulf States, as well as environmentalists, have repeatedly warned of the dangers of Iranian nuclear activities in these areas. The deceased Sayed Emami’s and his colleagues were also carrying out studies of the effects of nuclear waste on the flora and fauna of the Gulf, and it was as a result of these efforts that information about Iran’s nuclear activities was leaked.
The mass death of dolphins and fish in the Gulf is attributable to the nuclear waste issuing from the Bushehr plant. Syed Emami collaborated with US laboratories to confirm that the local dolphin population was suffering from damage to the nervous system as a result of nuclear waste. Prior to the revolution, Sayed Emami was a professor at Ahwaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences. He went to Abadan at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War. During that period, he sent his son and wife to Bushehr, and his other son Ramin was born in Bushehr. His links with environmentalists started when they began looking into the nuclear plant’s environmental pollution.
Based on unofficial resources, Emami said the environmental damage is caused by the IRGC’s activities, especially those related to establishing dams and the transfer of water. Decades of misuse of Iran’s water resources have led to a severe freshwater crisis, with the scarcity felt by most of the population of the Islamic Republic. These water shortages were among the primary factors that led to the recent wave of protests against the theocratic regime.
Successive Iranian governments have carried on policies that systematically misuse, waste and pollute the country’s water supply on a massive scale. These destructive policies have been exacerbated by other factors, such as corruption and a concomitant lack of proper supervision, with the decision to hand over the construction and management of the regime’s massive damming and diversion projects to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), rather than to qualified engineers and experts. The results are devastated rivers.
The once-abundant ecosystem in the predominantly Arab Ahwaz region of Iran has been ruined by wasteful efforts to transport water from near the source of the rivers to other regions of the country, via massive pipelines. Much of Ahwaz, already a desperately poor region, despite once being renowned as a regional breadbasket, as well as housing 95 percent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran, is now a heavily polluted wasteland, where desertification is steadily expanding. As a result of the damming and diversion project, the region’s once-mighty Karoon River, whose waters used to be crowded with large ocean-going vessels on their way to the Gulf, is now reduced in many places to a trickle or has simply dried up completely. The marshlands which were host to a variety of wildlife and whose waters sustained generations of fishermen and their families are now mostly barren, with the water too saline and polluted to sustain any form of life. The regime ignored repeated warnings from environmentalists of the ecological catastrophe which would result from the damming and diversion program, warnings which have now sadly been borne out.
By Rahim Hamid, an Ahwazi Arab freelance journalist and human rights advocate who mainly writes about the plight of his people in Iran