The Heat Is Online

Iran's Worst Drought in 30 Years Threatens Millions

Iran faces critical situation from drought Planet Ark, Reuters News Service, Aug. 4, 2000

TEHRAN - Iran’s worst drought in 30 years has inflicted severe damage on the country’s agriculture and livestock and threatens to displace millions of people, the United Nations said yesterday.

According to a report published by a UN fact-finding mission, two years of consecutive droughts has affected 18 of Iran’s 28 provinces and more than half of the country’s 60 million population.

"The enormous scope of the disaster is overwhelming the Iranian government’s resources, already stretched to the limit," it said.

"The overall drought situation is likely to worsen in the months to come, as summer temperatures continue to rise and rain is not expected until November."

The disaster has placed an extreme strain on water resources, livestock and agriculture...leading to greater hardship and human suffering, the report added.

The mission, representing several UN agencies, recently visited drought-hit regions, mainly in southern and eastern Iran, to assess the situation and identify emergency needs.

"We are trying to develop a framework with the government to deal with the chronic situation on a medium and long-term basis," said Gamal Ahmed, representative in Iran of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

"The findings show acute problems in the supply of drinking water and substantial damage to agriculture and livestock," he told Reuters.

He said a full report would be submitted to the donor community, listing steps to be taken to mitigate the effects of future droughts and supplement government efforts.

Kaiumars Khosh-Chashm, representing the World Health Organisation (WHO) and a member of the UN team, said: "The situation is changing fast towards critical, even if it rains in November. The government has done its best from its own resources, or we would have had a disaster on our hands."

The losses from the drought, estimated by officials as several billion dollars, far outweigh emergency funds available to help the victims. Tehran has appealed for international aid.

DROUGHTS HIT CROPS, LIVESTOCK

The UN report said the drought had dried up lakes and other reservoirs, disrupting water flow in 70 percent of rural areas.

It also issued warnings of contamination and health hazards as the populations in drought-hit regions grow more dependent on mobile and stationary water tankers.

On the agriculture front, the drought has destroyed 2.8 million tonnes of wheat crops and 280,000 tonnes of barley, in addition to the loss of stubble used for animal feed.

Iran has been forced to import an additional 300,000 tonnes of barley this year because of the drought.

An estimated 800,000 animals have died of malnutrition and disease and more face starvation or death from lack of water.

"The drought has also severely impacted the number and productivity of commonly held livestock. Breeding losses will be felt for years to come," the report said.

It said water shortages could provoke over 60 percent of the population in rural areas to migrate to overpopulated cities, which themselves are short of water.

The drought, which embraces the entire region, could also trigger new flocks of refugees into Iran from neighbouring Afghanistan, the report said.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE