EghtesadOnline: Despite the huge oil and gas resources in Asalouyeh County in Bushehr Province, local residents suffer from major problems, namely water shortages and air pollution.
For years water in summer is rationed in Asalouyeh’s rural districts including Chah-e-Mobarak, Nakhl Taghi, Sahmui-ye-Shomali and Nayband, ISNA reported.
With 80,000 people (up from 60,000 in the 2011 census), Asalouyeh residents have limited access to potable water during the day and in some areas piped water is cut for days together and people have no option but to buy bottled water.
Located in southwestern Iran, the arid province is one of the most water-stressed regions. Rural folks told the news agency that they are forced to spend the equivalent of $30 a month to buy water, which is 30% of the average salary.
Known as an industrial region, Asalouyeh is home to expansive gas production and processing facilities of South Pars, the world's largest gas field. However, locals are deprived of basic needs like clean air and water. Almost similar dire conditions have often been reported from the southern oil-rich Khuzestan Province.
According to Abdolhamid Hamzehpour, managing director of Bushehr Water and Wastewater Company, one way to tackle the water paucity is to collect and treat unconventional water resources, namely wastewater.
Unconventional water resources are those generated as a by-product of specialized processes such as desalination, or that need suitable pre-use treatment before use for irrigation.
Unlike conventional sources, access to wastewater is sustainable and has increased in Bushehr in the last decade.
“Close to $100 million in effluent is produced in the province, which can be used by the industrial and farming sectors. But it is wasted largely due to lack of wastewater infrastructure,” Hamzehpour said.
According to Energy Ministry data, Bushehr water consumption in agriculture, industry and household sectors exceeds one billion cubic meters a year. Water comes from surface, groundwater and desalination sources.
Regarding the bad weather conditions in the region, ISNA quoted natives as saying that what is ensuing in Asalouyeh can be likened to an ecological disaster, jeopardizing the life of more than 80,000 people in the city known as Iran’s petrochemical hub.
According to reporters who have visited the city, flaring of natural gas, outdoor sulphur storage facilities and industrial wastewater are among the most polluting sources that have contaminated not only the air but also soil and water.
Provincial officials including Farhad Qolinezhad, head of the Department of Environment in Bushehr, say at least $1.2 billion is needed to tackle pollution and help protect the people’s health and flora and fauna in the region.
Referring to previous projects to reduce pollution, namely collecting flare gas in gas and petrochemical plants, he said, “A lot has been done in the past 10 years. But the problem is so huge that it cannot be resolved easily and in the short term.”
He concurred that “Moving sulfur from refineries to storage facilities and keeping it in open spaces are among the polluting sources in Asalouyeh. It has contaminated the air and soil.”
DoE has filed lawsuits against oil, gas and petrochemical plants in the region for storing sulfur in the open. “Few, if any, ruling has been made so far that can help us protect the environment,” the senior official said.
Highlighting the scale and scope of the environmental and human costs, Qolinezhad said a special committee has been set up to deal with the problem.
The situation in Bid Khoun, a rural community in Asalouyeh, is so bad that residents cannot even donate blood. However, government officials in the region claim this has nothing to do with pollution and blame malaria in the area.