Subsidence in Tehran lead to a major accident in the city’s subway network in June 2016
Climate change, water stress, and other environmental crises threaten our planet. While there are potential threats of ecological problems in many countries, Iran, under the mullahs’ regime, is one step away from an environmental disaster.
Besides going to bed with an empty stomach and enduring the regime’s systematic oppression, the fear of dying due to land subsidence has exacerbated the people’s misery and concern.
Many Iranian environmentalists warn about subsidence and that many Iranian cities are on the verge of total collapse.
Due to water stress, land subsidence in Iran has been the country’s most important environmental crisis in recent years.
Iran is one of the countries with the highest land subsidence, believed to be ninety times more than developed countries. The situation has reached a point where Iran’s state media and regime officials are acknowledging the harrowing facts.
“According to Ali Baitullahi, Director of the Road, Housing and Urban Development Research Center, Iran has the fourth-largest land subsidence in the world. He said that we have less than 10 years, all plains in Iran are sinking, and the risk of this happening in Isfahan is much higher than in other cities,” the state-run Tejaratnews reported on October 16, 2021.
It is worth noting that the Geological Survey of Iran reported in early 2021 that out of 609 plains in Iran, about 500 plains have freshwater, and all of them face subsidence. In Isfahan, subsidence has penetrated the city.
In September, a video from southern Isfahan showed deep holes, sometimes 12 meters deep. These holes are close to the Isfahan-Shiraz railway and pose an imminent danger to commuter trains.
On May 17, the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Isfahan’s governor, who acknowledged, “Over 100 schools were evacuated and closed last year due to land subsidence threat.”
But this problem is not limited to Isfahan.
On April 16, 2022, the state-run Sanayepress quoted Alireza Shahidi, Head of the Geology and Mineral Exploration Organization of Iran, describing what he called the “silent earthquake” and “disaster” of land subsidence. He had also warned about its “security” consequences, or in other words, the people’s reaction.
“Land subsidence in Iran is more than five times the global average. About eight million housing units across the country are in subsidence zones that are at risk,” wrote the state-run Fararou website on May 8.
“Land subsidence occurs in most provinces, and only Gilan province is an exception. In other northern provinces of the country, such as Mazandaran and Golestan, we see subsidence, and the southwestern provinces have worrying land subsidence,” the state-run Fararou website added.
“Subsidence in Tehran is a serious issue and is more common and significant in southwest Tehran,. This phenomenon may damage monuments adjacent to landslides,” the state-run Mehr news agency quoted Mehdi Abbasi, Chairman of the Urban Planning Commission of the Islamic Council of Tehran, as saying on May 18.
On July 1, the Intel Labs Research Group also warned about massive ground subsidence in Tehran and called it a “silent ticking bomb.” While showing some satellite images, Intel Lab emphasized that ground subsidence “is now catching Tehran city itself for the last years thus endangering a growing population of 13 million residents and its critical infrastructures.”
The Intel Lab underlined that the “Excessive groundwater extraction has caused land subsidence at a rate of up to 25 centimeters per year in some areas.”
What is land subsidence, and what causes it?
Subsidence is a general term for downward vertical movement of the Earth’s surface, which natural processes and human activities can cause.
Subsidence occurs when groundwater is improperly extracted, and water storage cavities become empty pores. Over time, with the pressure of the upper ground layers, the pores dry up. When the water in the earth’s pores is reduced due to excessive consumption and the digging of countless wells. As a result, the soil grains are compressed together.
This phenomenon was first observed in Shanghai, China, in 1921. After World War II, the problem was exacerbated by the rapid extraction of water, oil, and gas from the lower layers, especially the granular ones.
Why is the subsidence in Iran growing?
According to Alireza Shahidi, “All over the world, access to water resources is between three and 20 percent, and when it reaches 40 to 60 percent, it is referred to as tension, and between 60 and 80 percent is a crisis. In Iran, it sometimes reaches over 80 percent. We have wittingly or unwittingly have led the country to destruction.”
Iran’s economy is oil-dependent. Since hijacking the anti-monarchical revolution in 1979, Iran’s ruling theocracy has heavily relied on oil and gas export. But the revenue of Iran’s national wealth has been squandered on terrorism and oppression. Tehran has accelerated oil and gas extraction without improving the infrastructures to always have cash for its mercenaries and illicit activities. As a result, the increasing extraction of petroleum and natural gas without considering its environmental consequences has contributed to the emergence and growth of subsidence.
Besides, one of the main reasons for Iran’s water crisis is the construction of unscientific dams by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its front companies. The IRGC uses these dams for military purposes and its factories. In addition, the IRGC has been digging deep wells. Before the 1979 revolution, there were only 36,000 wells in Iran. But official reports in 2015 indicate there are at least 794,000 wells across the country.
Iran’s groundwater management is under the Ministry of Energy and the country’s surface water management is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. By taking ownership of all surface and subsurface waters of the country, digging wells, and building dams, these two institutions have monopolized water.
In 2018, the New York Times emphasized that “25 percent of the total water that is withdrawn from aquifers, rivers, and lakes exceeds the amount that can be replenished.”
As a result of the Iranian regime’s destructive policies, Iran is on the verge of a catastrophe. Iran’s historic sites in cities like Isfahan and Shiraz are on the brink of collapse. According to the official IRNA news agency in 2021, “Subsidence in the country starts from 25 cm and reaches two to three meters.”
This phenomenon endangers the lives of millions of Iranians, and hundreds of Iranian cities would soon become inhabitable.
What is the solution?
Assume there is a government in Iran that cares about its people. Then, there are indeed several solutions to the land subsidence crisis. Some practical steps that could reduce the risk of severe ground subsidence include:
Injection of excess water on the surface of the earth into aquifers;
Proper and efficient use of water resources with improved irrigation methods, such as the use of drip or sprinkler methods or the improvement of planting crops that require little irrigation;
Prohibition of excessive use of groundwater basins;
Urban water treatment and reuse in factories;
Reducing industries that require large volumes of water to operate;
Drilling wells that can store excess water on the ground; and
Legal control of water resources
But these measures stand in stark contrast with the Iranian regime’s goal. Considering that the number one priority of the regime is to preserve its survival, taking measures to save the environment and tackle the problem of subsidence is the last item on its agenda.