According to the head of the Varzaneh Islamic Council, as a result of the drying out of the Gavkhouni wetlands due to water diversion in the central province of Isfahan, leishmaniasis, a severe disease, has infected hundreds of people in the town of Varzaneh.
The disease, which leaves large lesions on its victims’ faces and bodies, is caused by the bite of a kind of sand fly.
“Despite health officials announcing that there are at most 900 infected people, we think that the numbers are much higher,” the Varzaneh official Hossein Azhari said in an interview with the ILNA state-run news agency.
According to this report, 512 school students, mostly girls, have fallen victim to the skin disease. Many call the disease, “the murderer of beauty” as the wounds left behind by the infection resemble acid lesions on the face with hideous scars that refuse to go away.
According to the city official, no specific measures have been taken to prevent the illness.
This is just one of the dire consequences of the Isfahan water diversion, which has taken its toll on the livelihood of farmers in Varzaneh.
Varzaneh farmers protest water rights
Farmers in the central province of Isfahan gathered today in protest to the diversion of water into neighboring provinces’ industrial sites.
The angry farmers in Varzaneh, a town in Isfahan known for its farmland, have been gathering for more than 10 days demanding their water rights.
The farmers held signs which read, “Where is my Zayanderud”, referring to the once flourishing Isfahan river which has now all but dried out as a result of extraction before reaching Isfahan.
Another sign read, “As Isfahan farmers, we will stand till death to get our legitimate and lawful rights.”
Reports indicate that farmers in another town in Isfahan, Khorasgan, also gathered today in protest to the Isfahan water diversion.
Their protests have led to reactions from Iranian officials.
“They are transferring the water with high pressure pipes right in front of the people to places where there was nothing before and this has led to such prosperity (in other regions) that farmers leave their land to find work in Yazd Province,” the head of the Varzaneh Islamic Council said referring to neighboring Yazd Province where the water was being transferred for industrial sites.
A few weeks ago, 18 Iranian parliamentarians from Isfahan handed over their resignation in protest to the plight of farmers and the violation of their water rights.
Now farmers are saying that it was all for show and votes because most of the MPs stopped following the issue after a promise from the President about looking into the Zayanderud water crisis.
This has angered farmers who say that their demands for their water rights were simply put aside in the parliament with one promise which is unlikely to be kept.
Yazd’s industry flourishes as thousands of years old Varzaneh farmlands turns into barren land
According to the Varzaneh city official, it was useless for farmers to pursue their water rights through the government.
“It’s difficult for the people to see the water that is being transferred to somewhere else not far from where they live and not have access to it,” Hossein Azhari said.
“The water is being transferred with high pressure piping to Yazd for industrial purposes, but instead, the thousands of years old Varzaneh farmlands have turned into barren land,” the city council official said.
The people of Varzaneh are living in very difficult circumstances. Most of them have no other source of income other than meager government subsidies.
“The people who owned land are over 60 years of age and are incapable of working as laborers and no one will hire them anyway. What are they supposed to do? They have been abandoned,” Azhari added.