Isfahan Farmers Demand Zayandehrood Water Rights, Threaten to Disrupt Next Election

Farmers protesting. Source: Kayhan London

By Kayhan Life Staff

The prosecutor’s office in the Iranian city of Isfahan has banned any large demonstrations not authorized by the province’s security council. The measure follows a series of widespread protests by farmers in the central province of Isfahan demanding their rightful access to the waters of Zayandehrood (also spelled Zayanderud), the largest river in the country’s central plateau.

According to one of the province’s representatives to the Majlis (Iranian Parliament), farmers have “zero” access to Zayandehrood’s massive 1.5 billion-cubic-meter water reservoir. Farmers fear that violation of their water rights will be detrimental to their agricultural products and orchards.

Many farmers in the eastern part of Isfahan Province cannot access Zayandehrood’s water reservoir any longer, after authorities diverted the river’s trajectory to supply the neighboring Yazd Province.

On April 24, protesters marched from eastern regions to the western parts of Isfahan Province and gathered in Chadegan County. They parked their tractors alongside a long stretch of road to highlight their plight and demand their rightful access to Zayandehrood. Security forces blocked the road to the Koohrang river, preventing protesters from reaching the water source to Zayandehrood.

Families of the farmers also gathered in front of the Isfahan Province Water and Wastewater offices, shouting, “We are in mourning today; farmers’ lives have been shattered.”

Meanwhile, Isfahan Prosecutor-General Ali Isfahani has issued a statement banning all protests that take place without authorization from the security authority of the province. The measure is aimed at stopping farmers from demanding their rightful claims to the Zayandehrood water reservoir.

The statement alleges that “hostile elements, who have tried to influence and control the protests to achieve their political and disruptive goals, have perverted the demands of a hardworking segment of society.”

“Farmers’ representatives know the threat and are well aware of this issue,” the statement added.

Mr. Isfahani has urged farmers to be patient and let the legal process take its course. He has said that farmers will receive compensation for their financial loss after the working group for tackling the water shortage has completed its work.

Meanwhile, farmers have warned that they will remove all ballot boxes from Isfahan if authorities fail to fulfill their promise by the presidential election in August.

In an interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), Mohammad Taghi Naghd-Ali, a Majlis deputy representing Khomeyni Shahr electoral district in Isfahan Province, said: “Mismanagement of the water rights to Zayandehrood by the Ministry of Energy has devastated farmers in Isfahan.”

“Isfahan’s agricultural lands face severe water shortages and drought,” Mr. Naghd-Ali warned. “Unfortunately, authorities have ignored the pleas of the people. The energy minister and other officials have made no serious efforts to solve this problem.”

“Farmers do not have access to even a cubic meter of the 1.5 billion cubic meters in the water reservoir,” Mr. Naghd-Ali noted. “Less than 300 million cubic meters of water is in the reservoir at Zayandehrood Dam. The dam also holds 100 million cubic meters of mud used to [extract] drinking water.”

Naghd-Ali criticized the energy minister and other senior officials, saying that “previous violations and improper measures have deprived Isfahan of its rightful claim to millions of cubic waters from Zayandehrood by diverting its course to supply Yazd without compensating the local inhabitants.”

Naghd-Ali also spoke about the Ben-Brujen project in the southeastern province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari to transport Zayandehrood’s water from Ben County to Naghneh Brujen District.

“The Ben-Brujen project has started again, despite the continuous and rapid depletion of water level in Zayandehrood,” Naghd-Ali explained. “While authorities have banned any large gatherings, protesters in Isfahan continue to draw attention to their rights to Zayandehrood’s water, which has been grossly violated.”

“Some of the neighboring provinces have accused farmers in Isfahan of being unjust, which we find very hurtful,” Naghd-Ali added. “President and senior officials have promised to resolve the issue. The intelligence and energy ministers were supposed to address these problems, but nothing has happened so far.”

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