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Gotvand Dam Rubs Salt Into Ahwaz's Wounds

The livelihoods of thousands of Ahwazi farmers are being threatened by the Gotvand dam.

The Gotvand dam is the biggest dam on the Karoun river and was commissioned during the Ahmadinejad administration. It was built near the Gachsaran salt mine, against the advice of experts, which has increased water salinity and severely affected water quality for agricultural use and drinking, according to Mohammad Ali Bani Hashemi, director of the Water Institute of Tehran, in a recent interview.

The dam was opened in 2012, providing electricity and with water siphoned off for sugarcane plantations. According to officials, by 2013 around 7mn tonnes of salt had built up in the bottomr of the dam's reservoir. Frequent preliminary studies since the 1970s and as late as 2004 showed that the dam would cause environmental devastation, but these were ignored and the dam was authorised.

Ahwazis contend that the decision was made because none of the cabinet of the Ahmadinejad and Rouhani administrations came from the region, in spite of its economic importance due to water, farming and oil resources as well as a sizeable heavy industry base and electricity generation. Instead, ministries are dominated by powerful figures from Isfahan, Kerman and Yazd, provinces that have profited from the exploitation of the Ahwaz region.