As a result of recent heavy rainfall upstream of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan basin, there has been a new flow of water into Hamoun wetlands. The return of water has triggered new hope among the desperate residents of the Hamouns whose livelihoods are solely dependent on these waters.
Located on the border of Iran and Afghanistan and fed mainly by the Helmand and Farah rivers, the Hamouns have been devoid of water for well over a decade. This is why the recent rains have brought respite to fishermen and farmers who subsist in this region. But while the rains have helped to alleviate the distress of the local population, longer-term – man-made – solutions are required if these wetlands are to once again serve as a major source of food and shelter for the people of the area, as well as wildlife and migrating birds.
At least for now, the rains have caused plants to sprout anew. Fish and birds have also started to return. In an amazing display of nature’s ability to recover quickly, even after only a few days after the re-flooding, residents were able to collect youngling reeds to use as fodder for their water buffaloes. The rains will also reduce the risk of sand and dust storms being whipped up by dry winds blowing over a parched and dusty landscape.
The re-flooding of the Hamoun wetlands is clearly a result of a natural phenomenon. For this reason, sustaining this positive development will require concrete steps – including the cooperation of basin countries, the wise utilization of resources and, crucially, “Integrated Management of Hamoun Wetlands” which also includes upstream lands.
A recent expert assessment of the situation, carried out by the Iranian Department of the Environment and UNDP, makes a number of proposals for immediate action to tackle the problem.