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Khuzestan MPs threaten mass resignation over river diversion

Majlis (parliament) representatives for Khuzestan have threatened to resign if the project to divert the waters of the Karoon River to the provinces of Rafsanjan and Isfahan continues.

Khuzestan's Majlis members have been fiercely critical of the water diversion scheme, claiming it would seriously undermine water security and the livelihoods of many farmers in the Arab-majority province. In December, the MPs launched a petition to impeach Energy Minister Parviz Fattah over the transfer of Karoon waters.

Water quality is a major problem for residents of Khuzestan. In most of the province's towns and cities, water is polluted with industrial wastes and open sewers run through the middle of the streets. In Khafjieh, in western part of the province, the situation has become so bad that schools are failing to provide safe drinking water to children and have closed. The Iranian government has requested World Bank funding to clean up the province's water supply, although it continues to profit from oil revenue extracted from lands confiscated from Ahwazi Arabs. Meanwhile, the river diversion project along with the construction of dams is already making the situation worse.

The Karoon River is also an important source of water supply for farmers. The diversion project will hit the province's Arab majority hard, exacerbating endemic poverty in the region by reducing water availability. The Arab population is highest in the areas most affected by the river diversion. River diversion could lead to a significant deficit in water in the Ahwazi region, threatening the agricultural sustainability and creating an ecological disaster zone.

Ahwazi Arab representatives have long been campaigning against river diversion, but the Iranian government has continued to press ahead with the scheme. At a session of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in May-June 2005, Karim Abdian, Director of Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation, drew attention to the diversion of water from Karkhe River, which passes through an entirely indigenous Ahwazi Arab area of Howizeh and Boustan, to Kuwait and the diversion of the Karoon's water to central Iranian provinces.