When Hope Dries

Mahdi Barchian


Ten years ago, when I heard about sand storms in Hamoon lake for the first time, I had no image of  the on -going disaster. In the next years, my mind was busy with the people dealing with the storm by hearing the news regarding Sistan 120 day storms in summer. During some trips to the semi-abandoned villages in the heart of storm, center of Hamoon dry lake and near Afghanistan border in the two past years, I observed the life of the last survivors, who have based their lifestyles on Hamoon lake climate and have been doing jobs such as fishing, mat weaving, animal farming and agriculture over a thousand years. But nowadays, they live in a critical condition without having any access to drinking water, electricity, health, education and suffer from respiratory illnesses, poverty, unemployment and addiction. It was unbelievable for me to see how these people have lost all their belongings through generations over less than 20 years and have changed to be depressed and demotivated.


Hamoon Lake and wetlands, which holds the seventh international rank in the world has an area of 5660 square kilometers, is Iran’s third biggest lake (about 3820 square kilometers) and most of it is located in Sistan and Baluchistan province and also Afghanistan. Hamoon consists of three small lakes named Hamoon Poozak, Hamoon Saberi and Hamoon Hirmand that join each other at the time of water abundance. Hirmand river, which is originated from Hendokosh mountains in Afghanistan, is the main water route and Hamoon survival as well as its residents depend on Hirmand river. This dependence has caused some problems for the whole system due to any fluctuation in water level. It is a long time that Hamoon river faces water scarcity and its wide drought has led to different problems such as environmental, social and economic in that area.


The main reason of Hamoon Lake drought is that Afghanistan government does not let Hirmand River enter it. The disagreement and argument concerning water has existed over 100 years between these two countries. Despite many contracts to determine Hirmand water right, since late 1990s and at the time of rain decrease and starting drought in the Middle East, Hirmand water has decreased continuously. Various factors including Sovereign state over years specialy Taliban period, building many big and small dams such as Kajaki over Hirmand and using pumps on Hirmand river route for agriculture by farmers have resulted in Hamoon river drought. This has caused interference in the life of four hundred thousand Sistani and Balouch in more than one hundred forty thousand hectors of eastern lands of Iran plus poverty and insecurity by drug smugglers and terrorists active gangs for easier commute in the dry river and large number of emigration to other parts of Iran due to shortage of security, job, health and daily increase of poverty, addiction, illiteracy and storms. In spring 2014, Hamoon river was full of water by flood from Afghanistan and then was dry again in less than 3 months due to the repeated water cut and river bed changes.


Every year, as summer and 120 to 160 day storms starts, a big amount of dust and sand storm attacks life of the people and when the other seasons begin, the aimless and bloomless life continues. This is the report of the last cultural survivors of over six thousand years in a few remained villages due to not having enough financial ability and little hope to revive Hamoon river.


Province Of Sistan, Iran

Climate Change


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