Thousands of Iranians gathered in a dried-up riverbed in the central city of Isfahan to protest mismanagement of water resources, state media reported.
Farmers and their supporters carried signs reading “Where is my Zayandeh River?” as they stood on the cracked ground where the Zayandehrood River once flowed, next to the famous Khaju bridge, Rudaw reports. The largest river in Iran’s central plateau has largely disappeared for the past two decades because of drought and water diversion to industry and farming upstream.
The protests began more than a week ago but swelled on Friday as people joined from across the province.
Fearing public ire and further anti-establishment activities, authorities in #Iran claim drought and rainfall decrease as the main reasons for severe water shortages, following recent protests in #Isfahan and #ChaharMahalAndBakhtiari.https://t.co/3LbD8vYTGG
— Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) November 23, 2021
The livelihood of farmers in the province has been “severely affected” by the lack of water in the river, state media reported. The farmers complained that the government had not responded to their situation.
First Vice President Mohamad Mokhber instructed the ministries of energy and agriculture to take immediate steps to deal with the issue in Isfahan and provinces upstream, state TV reported.
Massive Protest in Isfahan #Iran today against drought, corruption and poor management.
Internet disruptions now being reported, and heavier security presence now to quell gatherings at night: pic.twitter.com/0uygcusVyx
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) November 19, 2021
President Ebrahim Raisi met with environmental activists in Tehran on Friday, telling them that the most frequent demand he hears from the people is for water and that water management must be prioritized.
In the summer, protests over water shortages in southern Khuzestan turned deadly, and security forces killed several people in a crackdown.
Monday, Nov. 22,
Widespread protests in Shahrekord.
People protesting the drought and looting of water by the government are chanting:
"This is Bakhtiar. No one can steal our water."
"Honorable Iranian support us." ??✌️#IranProtests #Iran #شهرکرد pic.twitter.com/7Ov3yGT5lI
— ???? ?????? ✌️ (@ManaBahram) November 22, 2021
Iran sought to be agriculturally self-sufficient after the 1979 revolution but its intensive agriculture, coupled with years of drought, has heavily depleted aquifers. The government has turned to the costly process of desalination to provide drinking water in the south, and in the north, it has built dams and tunnels on its rivers.