Pollution of Al-Ahwaz region worsened by radioactivity, possibly from DU weapons used in Iraq during 2003 invasion
Massoumeh Ebtekar, the Iranian Vice President, who is also head of the country’s Environmental Protection Organisation (EPO), has admitted that the environmental pollution in Ahwaz is a result of the regime’s deliberate draining of the region’s historic HorA-l Azim wetlands, adding that they have been drained in order to prospect for oil.
Speaking to Iranian news agency Khouznews, Ms. Ebtekar said, “During the reform era when the government planned to extract oil from the Hor-El Azim wetlands, we carried out assessments to determine whether this project complied with basic standards and to assess the potential impacts on the environment. As a result [of this research], we raised our concerns with the government, but we realised after the reform era the whole wetlands were dried out.”
Ebtekar further revealed that the already grave environmental crisis could be further worsened by the possible presence of radioactive contamination in the region, although she said that research is underway to assess this. Many in the Ahwaz region, which borders Iraq, believe that the sharp increase in rates of cancer since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq is a result of US forces’ use of weapons containing depleted uranium, with particles of the dust and sand contaminated by the lethal chemical blowing across the border.
Even after the wetlands had been completely drained, she added, the oil drilling continued, with both domestic oil companies and foreign ones affiliated to the National Iranian Drilling Company working in the area.
The severe pollution in the region resulting from the oil and gas drilling and worsened by the aridity resulting from the drainage and rerouting of the region’s waterways has led to increased incidences of asthma and heart disease, amongst other conditions, among the indigenous Ahwazi people.
Although Ahwazi MPs have regularly raised concerns in the Iranian parliament over the lack of any action by the regime to resolve the chronic health problems facing the region’s people as a result of the severe pollution, the regime has reacted with an attitude of wilful blindness to these life-threatening problems and shown no willingness to even address them.
The oil exploration activities in the last ten years in Hor Al-Azim wetland in Al-Ahwaz has transformed it into a complete desert. Hor Al-Azim is one of the most important wetlands in the Middle East and among few the surviving wetlands of Mesopotamia. However with the starting of drilling, oil prospecting projects, construction of oil facilities as well as building roads at the heart of the wetland which separated it into several disconnected areas, the wetland has been entirely dried up.
Hor Al-Azim wetland was a paradise that was taken away from Ahwazis. The Ahwazi Arabs having long history of habitual dependence on the wetland resources including fishing and farming to make their livelihood, but the oil companies in less than ten years have turned it into a big desert.The oil companies are deliberately draining all the wetland and do not pay the slightest attention to the life of the wetland and its Ahwazi Arab people.
All authorities and directors who are working in the fields of the oil companies are non-Arabs backgrounds; for this reason, it does not matter to them at all what happens to the Ahwazi local people.