Ahwazi people are increasingly being affected by the pollution caused by manufacturing companies releasing toxic heavy metals into their living environment.
The steel manufacturing factory, located near to Ahwaz city, has several processes, each of which have led to the production of high proportions of emissions in the form of particles emitted and released into the atmosphere. These are then further dispersed due to wind and rain.
Scientific laboratory studies on the distribution of heavy metals and pollutants have shown that significant quantities of manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, cadmium, lead and mercury have been found in soil samples around the steel industrial complex.
In particular, a village called “Kheet”, located near to the factory, has been exposed to severe pollution. The pollution has been caused by the direct discharge of industrial wastewater and chemical pollutant. The increasing activities of the factory have triggered serious health problems such as lung and skin cancers, chronic respiratory disorders and allergies among the local Arab men, women and children of the village.
The local people have reported that their lands have completely lost their fertility and have been transformed to barren and dusty lands because of the petro-chemical wastewaters and the heavy metals which are continually being emptied into their land. This has also resulted in the total destruction of vegetation and palm trees, in turn causing widespread desertification and as a result there has been a 98% decline in the area’s livestock sector.
The village has been totally devastated in all of these ways and also report that they have lost their livelihoods which were reliant on farming, raising poultry and fishing because of the lands and water being contaminated with high level of mercury and other harmful materials.
“Even our domestic animals such as cows and dogs are becoming ill and constantly coughing. Even animals cannot tolerate this polluted air and water let alone human being”, they claimed.
Natural wildlife has also been damaged. Villages report that “many species of fish and migratory birds have vanished completely from the area, which at one time used to be the major habitat and sanctuary for birds like falcons, stork and ducks”.
Despite all these losses, and the appalling health and safety regulations of the factory, villagers have not received any financial compensation, and their plight has been ignored by the occupying officials. They continue to be left suffering and having to fend for themselves after their only source of income has been effectively destroyed by the unregulated activities of the factory.
The sky of the village is permanently filled with smoke and heavy metal particles, the buildings are eroded, decayed and covered with black substances and the village is in blackness when it rains and the atmosphere is full of polluted rain. Moreover, most of local population especially children, women and elderly people of the village have suffered from serious mercury poisoning and other side effects, including diarrhea and a high increase in the number of babies born with mental and neurological conditions.
An elder fisherman, pointing to the village’s rivers, reported that “the fauna is devastated, it is unbelievable. For more than three years fish which used to be seen in large numbers here have almost disappeared in the last three years. We are also seeing a huge demise in the fish stock in all Ahwaz regions due to the shrinking level of river water, high salinity and contaminating substances in the water. We now have no ability to obtain drinking water.”
The fisherman also said that “medical research has recently been conducted and it was found that the local fish now contain high levels of mercury and other metals. Anyone who eats this toxic fish has experienced symptoms of mercury poisoning, bowel infections and blood poisoning as well as severe abdominal pains”.
The environmental pollution in Ahwazi regions due to expanding industrialization are claiming thousands of lives of Arab people who are already deprived, disadvantaged and struggling with extreme poverty, an inevitable product of the equivalent of slavery imposed in this region, previously one of the wealthiest in resources, by the Iran regime, who treat people like slaves in their own land.