When we see the terrible destruction of palm trees around the Shat Al-Arab waterway, it often reminds us of the eight years of war between Iran and Iraq that resulted in devastation of human lives and of the environment.
In this instance, however, the destruction isn’t caused by war but by the deadly environmental policy the Iranian regime enacts in order to force Ahwazi Arabs out of their lands.
The palm trees of the Ahwaz region – an Arab symbol of both land and humanity – are suffering the same fate of negligence and abuse as the Ahwazi Arabs themselves. The desolate landscape captured by this video is the result of the criminal negligence and wanton destruction of the region’s palm trees under the brutal occupation of the Iranian regime of the land of the Ahwazi Arabs and their ancestors.
One-third of the date palms in the Abadan region of Ahwaz have been destroyed by drought and desertification in recent years, according to a recent report by Iranian regime officials, with the agricultural problems in turn exacerbating the area’s already high unemployment rates as more Ahwazi farmers lose their means of living and are driven into destitution.
According to environmental studies and reports conducted by Ahwaz’s agriculture department, two million date palms have already been destroyed in the cities of Abadan and Mohammareh, and two million more are on the verge of imminent demise. According to the reports, the high saliency in the water and the sharp decline of the Karoon River’s water levels in the past ten years has resulted in the drying out the roots of millions of palms. In recent years, the damage to the palm trees is, reportedly, so devastating that it there has been a dramatic decrease in the numbers and productivity of palm trees, one of Ahwaz region’s main crops. These reports prove that the destruction happened for the date palms in Ahwaz during the Iran-Iraq war was miniscule in comparison to the current devastation of date palm groves.
This reveals the extent of the disaster that befell Ahwazi palm trees in general and the Ahwazi date palm agricultural sector in particular. As earlier reports indicate the decline in the Karoon River’s water level and the increasing of the water saliency levels, are the result of an excessive diversion of water from the river’s main course and pumping them to central Persian regions as well as a destructive dam building policy. For example, Gotvant dam is considered to be one of the most damaging dams, north of the region’s capital. This dam was constructed close to giant salt hills, which caused the river’s waters to be submerged in salt from these hills. As a result, the saliency levels of the Karoon’s water increased.
The drought and pollution in the region are caused by a number of factors, primarily the regime’s massive river-rerouting projects and its massive sugarcane refineries which use much of the remaining water supply in the refining process, as well as pumping thousands of gallons of water containing untreated chemical residues used to process the sugarcane back into the rivers; this, in turn, intensify the pollution of what water remains, leading to heavy salinity in the region’s soil and making the water largely undrinkable.
In addition to these destructive effects, several species of harmful and damaging pests, such as stem borers, caused further damage to the palm trees. Other factors which caused additional destruction include the mismanagement of irrigation and fertilization which have also deteriorated the quality and productivity of the date palms in Ahwaz. The area of land cultivated with palm trees in Ahwaz is estimated at 114,598 hectares and production per year is estimated at more than 515 thousand tons of dates.
The regime also uprooted millions of palm trees in the Kot Abdullah district on the edge of the regional capital, Ahwaz on the pretext of constructing roads in the area. While activists have protested to the regime’s environmental bodies and the Ministry of Roads and Construction over their catastrophic policies in the Ahwaz region, they have received no response.
While the various projects may seem unconnected, many Ahwazis are convinced that they all have the same objective, of helping to drive the indigenous Ahwazi Arab people out of their lands.