Drought and fires are killing the Ahwazi marshlands

The recent air pollution caused by the burning of Alazim Marshland has affected most of the cities and people in Ahwaz. Alazim Marshland has been catching fire for weeks due to the water shortage. It is caused by construction of dams on Karkheh River as the main source of the water for this vast area of wetland. As a result of high temperature in Ahwaz, the dried marshes are easily enflamed. Although, there are claims that the Iranian authority are behind these fires to put more pressure on Ahwazi people and to force them leave their land and migrate to other parts of Iran.

There are videos circulated on social media showing the gravity of the air pollution that reached even very remote cities from the marshland. Schoolchildren are covering their noises with masks or their clothes to prevent inhaling the heavy and unpleasant smoke in their way to school. Young and elderly people are caught between the already exists air pollution caused by dust storms and the smoke of burning marshes.

Many people from Maysan plain in Howeyzeh city has been hospitalised due to breathing complications caused by the thick smoke. Abuhomaida district has also faced with the thick layer of smoke that bring more complications to people whom suffer from respiratory diseases. The situation is deteriorating because cities lack enough medical facilities and services. [1]

On 7 August 2018, at the same time the marshland was burning, the palm trees in Falahiya city caught an extensive fire for unknown reason. As a result, more than 600 palm trees were destroyed by fire. [2] The palm trees are the main source of living for many Arab farmers. On 10 and 12 August 2018, there were reports and video footages from Ahwazi activists on the ground about the start of the fire on Falahiya Marshland as the second biggest marsh in Ahwaz.

In addition, on 10 August 2018, the Ahwazi activists sent videos showing the burning of palm trees on coast road of Mashali district and claimed that the Ahwaz city council is responsible for this fire. Since palm tree is the Arabic symbol of Ahwazi land, some Persian supremacists have been setting palm trees on fire.

Furthermore, as a result of the shortages of water and salinity in Karun River, more than 200 fish farms have been affected in Mohammarah city. The low flow of Karun River has caused the advancing of sea water and salinity of fish ponds, which killed thousands of fish. Besides the shortages of water in Mohammarah, the increase of wastewater caused by the sugar cane agro-industry companies, the water has become unhealthy to use and not advisable for consumption according to Managing Director of Cooperative Union of Aquaculture in Mohammarah. [3]


[1] SeyedAbdelhadiArami, ‘We went to see smoke, but saw pain’ (IRNA, 26 August 2018) <http://www.irna.ir/khuzestan/fa/News/83011983> accessed 5 September 2018.

[2] Khabar Farsi, ‘600 palm trees were destroyed by fire in Shadegan’ (9 August 2018) <https://khabarfarsi.com/u/57895984> accessed 5 September 2018.

[3] IRNA, ‘Salty water damaged 200 fish farms in Khorramshahr’ (7 August 2018) <http://www.irna.ir/khuzestan/fa/News/82993930> accessed 5 September 2018.

By Abdulrahman Hetteh

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