Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern
And now Iran.
The World Resources Institute warned this month of the rise of water stress globally, “with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040.” A water shortage can spark street protests: Access to water has been a common source of unrest in India.
Iran is the latest example of a country where a water crisis, long in the making, has fed popular discontent.
Millions moved to provincial towns and cities, and joblessness led to mounting discontent among the young.
Climate change is projected to make Iran hotter and drier.
“Water is not going to bring down the government,” he said.
But as the Iranian water expert Kaveh Madani points out, it meant that the government encouraged farmers to plant thirsty crops like wheat throughout the country.
The result: “25 percent of the total water that is withdrawn from aquifers, rivers and lakes exceeds the amount that can be replenished” by nature, according to Claudia Sadoff, a water specialist who prepared a report for the World Bank on Iran’s water crisis.
That includes Lake Urmia, once the region’s largest saltwater lake, which has diminished in size by nearly 90 percent since the early 1970s.
Its drought, stretching from 2006 to 2009, prompted a mass migration from country to city and then unemployment among the young.