The Iranian plateau is sinking. According to Mostafa Fadaeifard, head of the specialized committee for flood assessment of the National Committee of Great Dams of Iran, 18 provinces are at high risk of land subsidence; subsidence that can engulf people’s vital infrastructure and homes and lands.
Water stress for large cities like Tehran means water rationing and consumption warnings, but for rural people, it means financial bankruptcy and migration, a process that has been going on for years. These people whose profession is agriculture are now forced to migrate to the outskirts of big cities and have become suburban people and day laborers. This shift, however, does not end here and has wider implications than we will discuss here.
According to statistics, 200 cities in the country are suffering from water stress this year. Perhaps it is not bad to give a definition of water tension that Iran is ranked fourth in the world; A country that has consumed more than 80% of its renewable resources. According to the ‘Falkenmark indicator’ or ‘water stress index’, when a region or country has less than a thousand cubic meters of water resources per person per year, the country suffers from water stress.
“This method defines water scarcity in terms of the total water resources that are available to the population of a region; measuring scarcity as the amount of renewable freshwater that is available for each person each year. If the amount of renewable water in a country is below 1,700 m per person per year, that country is said to be experiencing water stress; below 1,000 m it is said to be experiencing water scarcity; and below 500 m, absolute water scarcity.” (Global Water Forum, May 7, 2012)
What will this scarcity do with the country? Farmers in the east and west of Isfahan who live now for many years as farmers what will they do with their lives? The Kermanis who have no water anymore to plant pistachios what will they do? Cultivation pattern must change; True, irrigation should be change to drip irrigation, right, but in the absence of these scientific changes, people have found no way to escape their village for years.
Until now, migration from rural to urban areas has been mainly due to the repulsion of rural life; The repulsion that has occurred due to not finding a job and, in fact, a mismatch between the amount of land for the labor force; restrictive factors that have caused villagers to move from their hometowns to other cities.
Now, with water shortages, these migrations will increase. In this regard, we are witnessing migration to the north of the country. It is good if this migration is attracted by the destination and the person will find a job and is absorbed in the destination, but since such migrations are due to the repulsion of the origin, it must be said that it is a kind of migration is falling from the pit into the well.
This population is marginalized in the destination city and then suffers from a variety of social ills that challenge both themselves and the community of origin.
Iran’s cities even now cannot provide adequate urban jobs and facilities for its indigenous peoples, and if there is no culture and planning for these migrations in the cities of origin, then conflicts of interest can create new challenges for the cities, which we are seeing now.
Its manifestation can be seen in educational planning, a city must be able to calculate how many schools and teachers it needs for this population growth. But as we are witnessing due to an uncontrolled migration none of the cities are able to provide the migrated children with school and many of them are ending on the streets and being abused as workers.
Therefore, if these migrations are large and uncontrolled, changes must be made to the planning of the university, housing, roads, and urban infrastructure, as these are rapidly affected by migration and urban planning will be disrupted. Many young people in Iran who are scared because of water scarcity buys lands in the north of the country and decide to live there. Therefore, the population of the villages has shrunk by 50 percent in the last 40 years. Another effect of water scarcity in rural areas is reduced labor force and gender differences due to wider migration of men than women.
Lack of comprehensive and codified planning is one of the factors that has increased the damage to villages and cities. Especially in the long-term drought that has gripped the country for years, many agricultural products have been destroyed due to lack of water. Among the provinces where the effects of drought can be seen are Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman, where many crops have been destroyed and where we are witnessing a flood of migration to cities, which has led to an increase in marginalization in large cities and provincial capitals.