To describe the situation of Hoor Al- Azim ( the Great Marsh) as alarming is an understatement. This massive international marshland which is shared with Iraq is situated in ‘’ Misan Valley’’ (Dasht Azadegan) county in Ahwaz region (Khuzestan).

Over the past few days, Ahwazi instagrammers, local environmental journalists and activists have been publishing videos from Hoor Al-Azim. The videos show the heart wrenching images of water buffalos carcasses and hundreds of dead fish floating on water.

The images are reportedly from the number 2 reservoir of the marsh. What is more worrying is that the officials are either ignoring or at best dismissing the severity of the situation by describing it as ‘’normal’, as stated by Mohammad Javad Ashrafi, Director General of Environmental Protection of Khuzestan’.

As a result, a group of local environmental activists staged a protest in front of ‘’Ahwaz Water and Power organisation’’ building criticising the negligence of the Department of Environment, and other relevant local authorities.

Not respecting the water rights of Hoor Al-Azim has for long been a source of dispute between the government and local marsh Arabs whose livelihood is dependent on fishing and water buffalo livestock. In addition to water rights problem, wast area of the wetland have been dried up in order to extract oil.

In addition to poverty and the misplacement of hundreds of marsh Arab families, the other major consequence of drying of the marsh has been the dust storms that sweeps across the region.

Marshlands are called earth kidneys, as they absorb pollutants. Considering the heavy concentration of petrochemical industries in Ahwaz, the drying of Hoor Al-Azim, especially in the last decade, has left the region with a toxic environment. It is no surprise that Ahwaz city, the capital of the region was listed as one of the world’s most polluted cities in the world according to World Health Organization (WHO) in 2011.

This border wetland was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 2016 by UNESCO. And as an international wetland, the environmental catastrophe we are witnessing in Hoor Al-Azim have regional consequences.

Ahwaz Human Right Organization (AHRO) calls on the Iranian authorities to respect the water rights of Hoor Al-Azim and stop using water as a weapon against the people in Ahwaz.

Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO)

5 July 2021