Iran’s natural heritage: the export of dust

Last week, IHF ran a great conference on the Natural Heritage of Iran. There were speeches and discussion on water, air, forests, wildlife and some fascinating presentations on community development.

I thought the most interesting tension was between the demands for large-scale, coordinated national plans and programmes (a great idea, but … do they ever lead to real action?) – and the evidence we were shown of the effectiveness of community-level, community-led initiatives (definitely leading to action, but … how to scale these up to have any significant effect over the huge areas and enormous environmental problems in Iran).

I hadn’t fully worked out that yet another of the many results of sanctions is POLLUTION – and so adverse environmental and health effects across Iran – and into neighbouring countries.

It’s not just that Iranian oil sanctions mean that local oil products are ‘refined’ into dirty petrol – I already knew that. Sanctions also make it very difficult to get the calibration gases for monitoring equipment. Buses can’t be retrofitted with hybrid technologies to clean them up. And the economic problems following on the sanctions mean that poor people cant buy new, cleaner cars.

Something else that was underlined was how everything is linked in the environment.

MODIS image of dust deflation over southern Afghanistan originating from the dry Hamoun lakes in Sistan on June 15, 2004. Image from

I think I’m most interested in water – and have already written here about the dessication of Lake Hamun. Gary Lewis, the UN Resident Coordinator in Iran, showed heart-wrenching pictures from the Lake – with local residents begging for help.

Dust pollution in Iran. Image from:

But he – and the other presenters – also talked about how the drying out of lakes leaves dust. And (especially the seasonal) winds then convert the lake-bed into microdust storms that can cover hundreds of kilometres. Here are some satellite images.

The dust blows right into the eyes and lungs of Afghanis and Pakistanis as well as the American troops.

And it’s not only Iran exporting its dust to Aghanistan and Pakistan. Iraq exports its dust to Western Iran: especially the city of Ahvaz – the most polluted city in the world: click here to see a video of what it’s like.




1 thought on “Iran’s natural heritage: the export of dust”

  1. Iran’s natural heritage: the export of dust.
    Last week, Iran Heritage Foundation turned its attention to Iran’s natural heritage – and organised a great conference about water, air, pollution, wildlife and community development. The environment has effects on the cultural heritage – both directly, harming monuments like Kuh-e-Khwaja and Persepolis; and indirectly too.
    This posting is about how everything’s linked in the environment – and how the sanctions on Iran are being busted: with micro-dust storms exported to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and imported from Iraq.


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