Why dust storms still suffocate Iran’s Khuzestan province

Al-Monitor l Zahra Alipour: A massive influx of dust storms in recent weeks has once again paralyzed Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan. The province has been reeling from dust storms since the early 2000s, a problem which often leads to schools and government offices being closed, power, water and internet outages as well as residents being rushed to hospitals with respiratory complications.

According to a Feb. 18 assessment by the Khuzestan Environmental Protection Office, the concentration of dust particles in the provincial capital of Ahvaz was 1,841 micrograms per cubic meter — 12 times higher than the maximum recommended. In previous years, one city in the province was even reported to have 66 times more dust particles in the air than the maximum.

The recent crisis in Khuzestan prompted protests not only on social media but also on the streets of Ahvaz. In an attempt to address the crisis, two provincial officials were dismissed while President Hassan Rouhani and two of his Cabinet ministers traveled to Khuzestan to examine the situation — or, in the words of Ahvaz’s deputy governor, to “sympathize” with the people ahead of the May 19 presidential elections. Just days before Rouhani’s trip, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also criticized the management of the crisis, saying, “If someone is concerned about the people, they cannot remain unmoved in the face of the difficult problems in Khuzestan.”
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