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Iran’s Dangerous, Nationwide Phenomenon of Land Subsidence Due to Disastrous Policies

By Mahmoud Hakamian

Spread of the devastating scourge of land subsidence in today’s Iran, in addition to country’s other life-threatening crises, is yet another catastrophic crisis which is totally a result of Iranian regime’s anti-people and anti-national policies.

Land subsidence in some areas is so severe that it has reduced buildings’ resistance to earthquake to only four in Richter scale.

Damage to infrastructures, breaking and bursting of water and natural gas distribution lines, destruction of bridges, roads and railways, damage to utility poles, dwindling water supply and eventually drying up and sanitization of water wells and farmlands are among serious consequences of land subsidence.

The growing dimensions of this new yet devastating scourge, which is totally a result of predatory policies adopted by regime’s water mafia, are so huge that regime’s experts predict it could lead to evacuation of Tehran and other big cities like Isfahan.

The threats raised by the scourge of land subsidence in Iran will even be multiplied when we know that due to non-deployment of world’s conventional approaches for retrofitting the cities as well as lack of the least safety measures in buildings, Iran’s big cities now own the world’s worst and most dangerous infrastructures against incidents and urban hazards, so much so that of the world’s 43 types of natural disasters, 32 are currently underway in Iran’s cities.

The deep crisis of land subsidence will particularly be a more prominent issue in Tehran when we note that Tehran lies on three major fault lines, while an increased land subsidence in the city over the past ten years has reduced the its earthquake resistance from 6 to 5.4 in Richter scale.

The main reasons for Tehran’s land subsidence

The main reason behind the devastating scourge of land subsidence is excessive use of groundwater.

A dam-building policy along with overuse of groundwater and aquifers by the Revolutionary Guards over the past four decades have so irreparably hit Iran’s strategic water resources that the amount of land subsidence in Tehran is now 90 times that of the European Union, so that with one millimeter a day or 36 centimeters a year, Tehran has the world’s highest rate of land subsidence.

To prove the point, head of Agricultural Committee in regime’s parliament has acknowledged that “nearly 500 thousand out of the country’s 780 thousand water wells are unauthorized. Besides, there are 630 plains across the country, extracting water from 230 of which is illegal.”

Also state-run ‘Energy-Emrouz’ website writes in this regard on 9 April 2017 ”according to world standards, if a country uses 20 percent of its renewable water resources, it’s considered to be safe, yet it would be on the verge of crisis if this amount rises to 40 percent. In Iran, however, 85 percent of renewable water resources are currently being used. The dimensions of this disaster will be even more felt when we note that groundwater was previously found three meters below the ground, but now it’s down 45 meters.”

Needless to say, it’s the result of such inhumane policies by the regime that water shortage has now hit cities and villages, with its harmful consequences being seen as widespread immigration from rural areas on the edge of the desert, land subsidence, drying up of aqueducts and springs, and destruction of plains and agriculture.

In addition to regime’s anti-people policies, Tehran’s old, dilapidated water supply network should also be mentioned as one of the factors that has intensified the city’s land subsidence, so that state-run Tabnak website explicitly acknowledges that “considering the amount of Tehran’s daily water supply, the amount of water leaked through the city’s dilapidated water distribution network is nearly 1.5 to two times the capacity of Latyan Dam, and that’s the reason behind a 10-meter land subsidence in western Tehran.”

The third factor leading to land subsidence in Tehran is subway excavations, since the vibrations caused by excavating equipments lead in turn to loose, fine-grained soil being displaced and eventually poured into subway tunnels.

Pointing to this same factor, state-run ISNA news agency quotes regime officials as saying “the negligence of Tehran Metro contractors should not be ignored in creating holes in the capital, as metro officials are required to measure soil resistance with advanced devices and take any possibility into account before starting excavation operation. Unfortunately, this is not carefully carried out in some metro lines or is done slowly, while subway route and soil strength need to be constantly measured and controlled.”

The fourth factor is deep excavations carried out by regime’s predatory bands for building high-rise commercial buildings, so that Mullah Rouhani’s Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development acknowledges that “all over the world, the maximum depth of a hole before it’s considered hazardous is 20-25 meters, meaning that holes deeper than that are considered dangerous. But right now we have holes in Tehran that are 70 meters deep.”

State-run ‘Eghtesad-Online’ writes in this regard “attack of high-rise builders on capital’s underground through authorized deep excavations under the pretext of providing parking space for multi-purpose commercial tower blocks has already given rise to several land and building subsidence incidents in some areas in the capital including Sahebgharanieh Palace, and now has caused even more areas in Tehran to face a potential threat.”

Meanwhile, parliament’s so-called ‘Khaneh-Mellat’ news agency writes on 29 May 2017 “due to excessive extraction of groundwater, nearly 50 percent of country’s area is in critical conditions or turned into wasted plains. Failure to prevent land subsidence will in the near future threaten urban life, devastate urban and rural infrastructures, and destroy agricultural fields and farmlands.”