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Desertification: An Existential Crisis For Iran

Desertification: An Existential Crisis For Iran

  • Iran is grappling with severe desertification and water scarcity, leading to potentially uninhabitable territories, contributing to internal migration and posing a threat of mass exodus.
  • Tehran’s attempts to mitigate water scarcity have led to dam-building and water-intensive irrigation projects that have contributed to the drying up of rivers and underground water reservoirs, exacerbating the desertification problem.
  • Iran, one of the most water-stressed nations globally, faces potential conflict due to water scarcity, both internally and with neighboring states such as Afghanistan, adding to its socio-political challenges.

Temperatures in Iran are hitting record highs, rivers and lakes are drying up, and prolonged droughts are becoming the norm, highlighting a water crisis that is turning much of the country’s territory to dust.

The desertification of Iran is occurring at a staggering pace, with officials last month warning that more than 1 million hectares of the country’s territory — roughly equivalent to the size of Qom Province or Lebanon — is essentially becoming uninhabitable every year.

The situation has Tehran scrambling to gain control of the situation in a country where up to 90 percent of the land is arid or semi-arid. But the clock is ticking to stave off what even officials have acknowledged could lead to an existential crisis and the mass exodus of civilians.

The warning signs were on full display this month. Temperatures in southwestern Iran hit a staggering 66.7 degrees Celsius (152 degrees Fahrenheit), higher than what is considered tolerable for human life.

Iranian scientists warned that the water levels of Lake Urmia, which is in severe danger of drying up, are the lowest recorded in 60 years. And in what has become routine, advisories were issued about the threat of suffocating dust storms.

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