The number of date palm trees in the once lush region of Falahiyeh (also known as Shadegan in Farsi) in Ahwaz has fallen by half since 1989 primarily because of the Iranian regime’s diversion of the rivers which irrigated the trees.
According to the head of the Farmers Association in Falahiyeh, the number of date palm trees in the area has fallen by around 50 percent in the 27 years since 1989, with the official stating that the primary cause for the massive reduction in their numbers is a water crisis, largely caused by the regime’s damming and diversion of the rivers in the areas, which have been diverted to Persian provinces.
Another factor is the increasing salinity of the remaining water supply due to the regime’s introduction of large-scale sugar cane farming into the region, with the sugar cane processing plants pumping their heavily polluted residue directly into the remaining river waters. Both these factors have had a catastrophic effect not only on agriculture in Ahwaz but on the Arab people there, who rely on these rivers for their water supply.
The local authorities have warned that almost all the remaining palm trees are withered and on the verge of dying due to the lack of irrigation, with the region facing a massive crisis as authorities must decide how to deal with the local people’s grievances and whether or not to oppose the regime’s disastrous river diversion policy.
The Farmers’ Association revealed that the Berhi and Istaamran date palm trees, the most widely planted varieties in Ahwaz, which used to produce around 250 kilograms and 150 kilograms respectively per annum, now produce only 50 kilograms apiece annually, with the quality of the dates also declining steeply.
Around 43,000 hectares of the once lush farmlands in Ahwaz are used for growing date palm trees, which have been a primary source of income for the Ahwazi Arab peoples, as well as being a dietary staple. The region was once known as the main source of dates for export, as well as being able to satisfy Iran’s domestic requirements for the popular fruit.