Millions at Risk in Ahwaz-Sign to Help Save Lives

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Catastrophic flooding is threatening the lives of millions in Ahwaz in southwestern Iran, with at least 1.5 million local people displaced from their homes and the numbers rising daily. The main cause of the crisis, in addition to the unprecedented seasonal rains, is the Iranian government’s deliberate opening of floodgates on massive dams upstream on the three rivers feeding the region, which has unleashed torrential flooding on an unimaginable scale. At the same time, the regime has blocked off the delta marshlands area at the rivers’ mouths flowing into the Gulf in order to protect oil and gas facilities there. This has driven millions of gallons of floodwater into residential areas, farmlands, cities towns and villages, with whole areas submerged.

In a petition submitted to President Rouhani, 116 university professors urged the government to dismantle the barriers blocking off the marshlands and to permanently restore the waters there in order to end the flooding and save the people of Ahwaz from a catastrophe, as well as to protect the environment and wildlife and sustain manageable living conditions across Ahwaz.

We urge Iran’s government to dismantle the barriers sealing off the once-renowned Hor al Azim marshlands, and call on the leaders to immediately meet the demands of the people especially those affected by the floods and to work to ensure the people’s safety and long-term wellbeing.

The government should fulfill its duties to preserve the people’s lives and properties and prevent a looming environmental catastrophe that endangers the lives of the entire population and the devastation of the entire region.

We assert that any economic activity, especially in the field of oil and gas excavation, should be committed to the necessity of protecting lives and preserving the irreplaceable natural environment, wherever it takes place.
Dismantling the barriers at the river mouths to allow the waters to flow freely and end the disastrous flooding is the very least that the government could do to save lives, prevent casualties and prevent a cataclysmic environmental disaster, which goes far beyond the current flooding; the upstream dams whose floodgates have currently been opened to inundate the region also cut off much of the water to the region for the rest of the year, leaving the area where summer temperatures rise to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit suffering from desertification and worsening sandstorms.

We call on international environmental and human rights groups and on the international community to hear our pleas and act for the sake of humanity to avert further disaster by urging the Iranian government to dismantle the barricades sealing off the marshland area and allow the floodwaters to flow out the area by the natural route, in order to save the lives, homes and infrastructure of the people in Ahwaz and to help avert an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe that threatens to spiral into unimaginable devastation for both the people and natural environment of the region.