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Ahwaz Temperatures Exceed 60 Celsius; Dust Storms and Industrial Accidents Surge

With temperatures in Ahwaz topping 63 Celsius last week, concerns are rising over the impact of river diversion on the local environment and the effects on human health.

Damming the Karoun and Karkeh rivers in recent years has contributed to the destruction of the region's wetlands, leading to worsening dust storms and rising temperatures.

Dr Naser Karami, climatologist and associate professor at Norway's Bergen University, blamed the climate problems on the diversion of the Karoun River. He told a recent conference that while global temperatures will rise by an average of 2 Celsius by 2070, in the Ahwaz region the temperature rise could reach 5 Celsius.

Maashour (Mahshahr) was the hottest city in the world last year, reaching 67 Celsius. Last week saw a major explosion of a paraxylene storage facility at the Mahshahr Petrochemicals Complex, which may have been caused by high temperatures. The damage caused by the blaze was estimated at over USD1bn and it will take months before the unit is rebuilt.

Climate change and the dessication of Ahwaz's marshes is causing huge dust storms and worsening the problem of pollution. The Ahwaz population suffers from respiratory problems and high cancer rates due to air and water pollution, earning Ahwaz City the ignominious position as the world's most polluted city, according to WHO.

However, this month the Iranian budget cut the budget to deal with dust storms. The decision was heavily criticised by parliamentary agricultural committee member Abbas Papizadeh, who warned that the dust storms did not just affect Ahwaz but were a national problem as they reached as far as Tehran. He accused the Department of the Environment of failing to pay the wages of workers involved in environmental control.