Southwest Iran suffocates under dust cloud

Author: AFPTue, 2018-01-23 15:57ID: 1516722096252512300TEHRAN: Iran’s Khuzestan province was suffocating for the fifth straight day on Tuesday under a cloud of dust that has hit seven times the maximum recommended limit, Iranian media reported.
Images published by the semi-official news agency ISNA showed visibility reduced to just a few meters, with the sun hidden behind a blanket of dense orange pollution and just a few brave pedestrians wearing masks.
The province in southwest Iran has suffered for years under mounting air pollution as chronic drought has combined with over-use of water supplies to dry up the region.
Between Friday and Monday, 1,300 people were hospitalized for respiratory problems in the provincial capital of Ahvaz and the other key cities of Abadan, Khorramshahr and Shadegan, said official news agency IRNA.
Atmospheric pollution hit a peak on Monday afternoon in Abadan, leading to the closure of many schools and government offices, IRNA said.
President Hassan Rouhani sent a team of experts, including environment department chief Isa Kalantari and Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojati, to oversee the government response over the weekend.
In a post on his departmental website, Kalantari said decades of excessive water consumption and poor policy were to blame for the increasing problems.
“We have used our water resources without looking to the future and without applying any expertise on water resources,” he wrote.
“Given that the current situation is the result of the fact that our country is semi-arid and semi-desert, we must prepare ourselves to adapt to a life with less water.”
The environmental disaster is compounded by dust storms drifting in from neighboring Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which have also increased over the past two decades.
In a bid to limit the impact, Iranian authorities say they are planting thousands of hectares of plants and trees to act as a natural barrier and replenish the soil.
Devastated by the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s, Khuzestan is populated mostly by Arabs who frequently complain they are ignored by the government in Tehran and see few of the benefits from the oil fields in their province.
Khorramshahr in particular saw considerable unrest during protests that hit many parts of provincial Iran over the New Year period.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: IranTehranISNADust cloudrelated_nodes: Man taking selfie among seven dead in Iran stormsIran blames sandstorm on Iraq after protests over power cuts

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