Tag Archives: iran

Iran’s groundwater resources are rapidly depleting, and everyone should pay attention

People have been relying on groundwater resources for all their drinking and washing needs since time immemorial. But some seem to be depleting fast when faced with today’s levels of demand, a new paper reports, explaining more than three-quarters of Iran’s groundwater resources are being overexploited.

Image credits Igor Schubin.

Over 75% of Iran’s land is faced with “extreme groundwater overdraft”, the paper reports. This describes the state where the natural refill rate of an area’s groundwater deposits is lower than the rate people are emptying them at. The paper was published by an international team of researchers led by members from the Concordia University, Canada.

Drying out

“The continuation of unsustainable groundwater management in Iran can lead to potentially irreversible impacts on land and the environment, threatening the country’s water, food, and socioeconomic security,” says Samaneh Ashraf, a former Horizon postdoctoral researcher now at the Université de Montréal, and co-author of the paper.

Mismanagement of these resources seems to be the biggest issue at play, the team explains. This exacerbates the obvious difficulties that a semi-arid country would have in securing water resources. Aquifers are further hampered by inefficient agricultural practices, which further drain them needlessly.

Without urgent action, the team notes, multiple, nationwide crises can arise when groundwater levels drop too low.

Iran has around 500 groundwater basins and sub-basins, and between 2002 and 2015, an estimated total of 74 km3 of water (73 billion liters) has been drained from them. This helped increase overall soil salinity across Iran and promotes land sinking (land subsidence). The Salt Lake Basin, where the country’s capital of Tehran is located is one of the most at-risk regions for land sinking.

This is quite worrying as the region, home to 15 million people, is already quite seismically active, and at risk of being hit by earthquakes.

Public data from the Iranian Ministry of Energy was used for the study.

“We wanted to quantify how much of Iran’s groundwater was depleted,” explains co-author Ali Nazemi, an assistant professor in the Department of Building, Civil, and Environmental Engineering at Concordia University. “Then we diagnosed why it was depleted. Was it driven by climate forces, by a lack of natural recharge, or because of unsustainable withdrawal?”

Agricultural use of water was the leading cause of aquifer depletion, they explain, with Iran’s west, southwest, and northeast regions being the most affected. These are agricultural areas where strategic crops like wheat and barley are grown. Consequentially, groundwater resources are most heavily depleted in these areas.

The number of registered wells for agricultural use has doubled in the last 15 years, they explain — from roughly 460,000 in 2002 to roughly 794,000 in 2015. Overall anthropogenic withdrawals of groundwater decreased in 25 of the country’s 30 basins over the same period, which suggests consumption is being concentrated in a few, overexploited aquifers.

Ground salinity levels are also rising across the country, too, as evidenced by soil electrical conductivity readings.

The national and local governments are not able to deal with this growing issue for a variety of reasons — including international sanctions, local corruption, and low trust among the population. However, the authors explain that both short- and long-term solutions are dearly needed in order to avoid these issues ballooning into huge crises.

“In the short term, the unregistered wells need to be shut down,” Nazemi says. “But longer term, Iran clearly needs an agricultural revolution. This requires a number of elements, including improving irrigation practices and adopting crop patterns that fit the country’s environment.”

Other countries would be wise to pay attention to what’s currently happening in Iran, Nazemi adds, and learn from their mistakes.

“Iran’s example clearly shows that we need to be careful how we manage our water because one bad decision can have a huge domino effect. And if the problem is ignored, it will easily get out of control,” he says. “It also illustrates the importance of environmental justice and stewardship. These are even more important when addressing the problem of climate change.”

The paper “Samaneh Ashraf et al, Anthropogenic drought dominates groundwater depletion in Iran” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Iranian propaganda tries to pass $20 children’s Halloween costume as an astronaut suit

Iran has a young but fledgling space program that’s making some pretty good progress considering the nation’s space agency was founded in 2005. However, a recent botched propaganda campaign severely hit Iran’s credibility after Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi tweeted what he claimed to be an Iranian astronaut suit. In reality, the astronaut costume is a children’s Halloween costume that you can buy on Amazon for $20. Talk about an epic fail!


Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, who is a former intelligence officer, published his tweet with the fake astronaut costume and the caption  “astronaut costume #bright_future” on Feb. 4. The tweet, which has since been deleted, quickly became the subject of ridicule on social media after others found that the flimsy astronaut suit was actually a modified children’s costume.

The circle-shaped protrusion and another rectangle-shaped one on the breast of the suit tipped people off that there was something peculiar at play. As it turns out, these areas correspond to the NASA logo and a name patch that had been stripped off the Halloween costume.

Credit: Amazon.

This isn’t the first time that Iran has embarrassed itself trying to boast about embellished capabilities. In 2013, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps published a press release unveiling the so-called Qaher-313 stealth fighter. But what was supposed to be a frightening high-tech jet meant to sow panic in the hearts of Israel, the U.S., and their allies, was, in fact, a mock-up airplane.

Fake Qaher-313 flying through a fake skyline.

The ruse was so plain and evident that everyone simply laughed at this pitiful attempt at muscle-flexing. Journalists have even found that the design of the jet doesn’t allow it to carry bombs or even fly for that matter. Meanwhile, Tehran insisted that the project was real and that it was already flying. What a joke!

“The western media policy is to tell you that the Qaher is a moke-up. This is a cheap talk and shows that enemies are worried about Iran’s advancements in several fields, including defense industries,” Iran’s Defence Minister at the time, Ahmad Vahidi, said in a statement.

Domestically, Iran’s propaganda is even worse. Last year, during the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, billboards in the country absurdly suggested that Iran was responsible for building the space shuttle!

Graphics like these were advertised on billboards throughout Iran, implying the country had something to do with the space shuttle and its achievements. The artist even drew “I R A N” on the back of the shuttle in this illustration. Credit: Twitter.

Iran would be better off minding its own business and actually funding real science rather than using its extensive propaganda machine to bolster its image. Not only is this propaganda clearly not working, but it’s actually making Iran look foolish.

In the last decade, Iran has launched several satellites into orbit but its most recent track record hasn’t been the best. On February 9, the nation launched a communications satellite called Zafar 1 atop a Simorgh rocket but the satellite failed to reach orbit. Iran suffered another Simorgh launch failure in January 2019 and another one with a different rocket, the Safir, a month later. In August 2019, another rocket failed so horribly that its explosion at the launch site at the Imam Khomeini Space Center was spotted from space. Despite the setbacks, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi put on a brave face.

Dustpocalypse: Huge dust swirl storms Iraq and Iran

As if the area wasn’t tense enough socially and politically, Iran and Iraq are also facing major environmental concerns in the form of huge dust swirls. Iran’s capital city of Tehran is suffering most from an increasing amount of dust storms as winds at speeds of up to 80 kilometers broke trees and shattered the windows of houses, smashing power lines and filling up cities with dust.

dust st

The dust storm, as seen by NASA from satellite. Image via NASA.

A massive dust storm took place in Tehran on June 2, 2014 at 16:50 (local time). 5 men were killed and more than 30 people were injured, and a few cars were destroyed as well. Falling trees and objects in balconies caused 1200 electric 20 KW lines to become disconnected. That storm wasn’t an isolated event, and in recent years, more and more dust storms seem to threaten the country and its neighbor, Iraq. In February, another massive storm blanketed most of southern Iran in a thick coat of dust, and now, it’s happening again.

(tweet from the storm in February)

Twitter is abuzz with worrying pictures taken on site, but the storm is so huge it can actually be seen from outer space. Power outages and traffic accidents caused by low visibility are already reported in the country. A while ago, the Head of Iran’s Environment Protection Organization, Masoumeh Ebtekar warned that the Iranian people should learn to tolerate dust storms because they’re likely to happen again and again, with no solution in sight. In fact, there’s still no clear understanding as to why these storms are happening and increasing in intensity in the first place.

To make things even worse, it’s not just the immediate impacts that are worrying, but also the long-term impact, especially for agriculture and respiratory health. Dust storms cause soil loss from the dry lands, and worse, they preferentially remove organic matter and the nutrient-rich lightest particles, thereby reducing agricultural productivity. Also the abrasive effect of the storm damages young crop plants. DDust storms also create problems due to complications of breathing in dust.

An Al-Alam TV image from Monday shows a man at an unknown location with a monkey said to have been into space. Iran on Monday sent a capsule containing a live monkey into space and later retrieved the "shipment" intact, the Tehran-based Arab-language Al-Alam channel said, quoting an official statement. (c) AFP

Iran launches monkey into space, but it means no monkey business

Presumably, of course, since this news piece has only been delivered by an Iranian state-owned and controlled news outlet, and has yet to be confirmed by an independent source. Apparently, the Iranian space program successfully launched a live monkey into space, after the capsule in which the animal was housed reached an altitude of 75 miles, or 120 kilometers. The capsule then descended back to Earth, where it was recovered along with its still live and intact cargo.

Now, this might not seem like much news, considering since the 1950s some 32 monkeys were put into low-orbit in collective launches along the years by the US, Soviet Union and Russia, France and Argentina. Number 33 might mean that a new country is now on the list as well – Iran. This isn’t the first living being the country has launched into space, though. In  2010 it made a suborbital launch of a capsule containing a rodent, two turtles and worms, just one year later after its first satellite launch. In 2011, the Iranian space agency made its first attempt at sending a monkey into space, however the launch failed.

“This success is the first step towards man conquering the space and it paves the way for other moves,”  Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television, but added that the process of putting a human into space would be a lengthy one.

“Today’s successful launch follows previous successes we had in launching (space) probes with other living creatures (on board),” he added.

“The monkey which was sent in this launch landed safely and alive and this is a big step for our experts and scientists.”

Still, while Iran is currently reaching milestones long obtained by other countries 50 years ago, it’s making rapid progress – after all, Iran is the first nation ever to build a flying saucer, by their account at least. In 2010 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran plans to put a man in space by 2020; if current efforts and budget allocations follow the same trend, this might become likely.

The rest of the world’s governments, however, seem to view Iran’s space program with a highly suspicious and circumspect eye. I believe most of you are aware of the current international long standing criticism of Iran’s nuclear program, which the Iranian government has always claimed it is exclusively meant for energy and medical purposes. Coupled with its space program, however, many governments believe Iran is developing or has already developed nuclear warhead intercontinental missiles.

Screen from Iran's Arabic-language TV channel Al-Alam shows the launch of Iran's Rassad-1 satellite. (c) AFP/Al-Alam

Iran will launch a monkey into space

Last year, Iran successfully launched a rocket that carried a mouse, a turtle and worms into space. This summer, the Iranian Space Organization is planning on taking its space program one step further by sending a monkey into orbit this summer.

This was revealed this Thursday by Iran’s top space official at a press conference  after the launch of the Rassad-1 satellite.

“The Kavoshgar-5 rocket will be launched during the month of Mordad (July 23 to August 23) with a 285 kg capsule carrying a monkey to an altitude of 120 kilometers (74 miles),” said Hamid Fazeli, head of Iran’s Space Organization.

If the mission will prove to be successful, Iran will follow-up by sending it’s first man into space.

It has been known since this February that the Iranian Space Organization was planning on making this IQ leap for its mission’s occupants,  when the country’s head of state President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled a space capsule designed to carry a live monkey into space. At the same time, the President also showed off four new prototypes designed and built by the country, which it hopes to launch before March 2012. It’s first satellite was launched in 2009.

The Rassad-1 satellite was launched this Wednesday and as of now is in orbit, 260 kilometers above the Earth. The satellite has a life span of two months, circles the earth 15 times in 24 hours, and will be used to capture photograph various parts of the planet and transmit them back to Tehran.

Tehran has set forth a very ambitious space program in the past few years, and although they’re lagging behind the US or Russia by 50 years, as far as space exploration is concerned, progress is indeed visible. Yeah, remember that flying saucer the Iranian government unveiled a while back?




Iran unveils world’s first flying saucer

Fars news agency illustrated its story with a photo of a flying saucer .

An official press release by Iranian state-controlled news site Fars News, claims that remarkably enough the Islamic Republic has managed to be the first nation ever to build a flying saucer. And no, I didn’t google the image from above, it’s been used instead officially by the news agency to illustrate the press release, although the crooked looking 1950s B-movie screenshot isn’t sourced.

Dubbed Zohal, which means Saturn in Persian, the flying saucer was built for surveillance and defence purposes. Unveiled in a special state ceremony, “the flying machine is equipped with an auto-pilot system, GPS (Global Positioning System) and two separate imaging systems with full HD 10 mega-pixel picture quality and is able to take and send images simultaneously,” according to Farce Fars News.

Photo used by the Iranian Students’ News Agency to illustrate Zohal.

Iranian Students’ News Agency, which has also published a press release about Zohal, has a more “rational” photo attached to its news piece, but they also insist on naming the cuadrotour surveillance flying object as “flying saucer”.

Tehran is dabbling a lot in scientific projects lately, some quite impressive and ambitious, aside from this obvious flying saucer masquerade. For instance, their space program has sent a number of flying missiles in space, which have caused a lot of alarm in the western world for fear of them being used as intercontinental ballistic missiles some day.

Last year, Iran successfully fired a rocket that carried a mouse, a turtle and worms into space, and who doesn’t remember the Iranian humanoid dancing robot Surena 2.

Back to the subject at hand… flying saucers?!?!?!?

Iran almost completed their first nuclear reactor. Should we worry ?

This seems to be the one of the most asked questions these days; what’s my opinion on it ? You should worry about it just as much as you worry about a brick suddenly falling in your head – probably less.

After decades of development and hard work (yeah, that’s right, people from all around the world work), Iran’s first nuclear power plant is almost operational. The engineers have already begun loading the fuel into the core of the Bushehr plant. It’s been in construction since 1979 and it will have a 1000-megawatt capacity, comparable to that of the United States nuclear plants.

So, there are some hundreds or thousands of nuclear plants throughout the world, why is this news ? Well, it’s news because the US claims it’s actually nuclear power that Iran is after, not nuclear energy.

“There are some fairly rigorous … checks and balances built into the operation of the plant,” said Middle East analyst David Hartwell at IHS Jane’s, a global risk consultancy. Uranium enriched to about 5 percent fissile purity is used as fuel for power plants. If refined to 80-90 percent purity, it provides the fissile core of nuclear weapons. [Reuters]

Furthermore, Iran will be required to return the spent fuel which can be potentially turned into weapons to Russia. Now how much can Russia be trusted with such an affair ? That’s a whole different problem, but let’s hope they will do everything right.