Sistan and Baluchestan is the most deprived province of Iran, and its people must confront poverty and the lack of basic infrastructure, including an adequate water system. Girls and women in Sistan and Baluchestan suffer from various diseases as a result of the water shortages.
Sistan and Baluchestan Province has a unique potential in the mining sector due to its location on the world’s metal and mineral belts, with rich reserves such as copper, chromite, manganese, and gold. However, because of the corruption of and looting by the ruling authorities, residents of this province are among the poorest people in Iran.
Despite the 370-kilometer stretch of water in the northern part of the Gulf of Oman and access to the ocean, and despite the two large dams, Dashtiari and Zirdaran, this province has the least access to drinking water in the country.
As a result of 20 years of drought and heavy dust in these areas, the citizens of this province suffer from diseases such as tuberculosis and dyspnea, or shortness of breath (The state-run ROKNA news agency – July 4, 2018).
Meanwhile, the Coronavirus has spread to more than 340 cities. Hygiene, particularly hand-washing with soap and water, is among the ways of controlling the spread of the virus. However, two-thirds of the population of Sistan and Baluchestan province does not have access to drinking water. And women in Sistan and Baluchestan have no access to drinking water – one of the most essential substances for human life.
Women in Sistan and Baluchestan face physical hazards
The water crisis and the lack of plumbing in many villages have disproportionately affected women and girls.
Young girls and women in Sistan and Baluchestan must travel long distances, along rugged paths, several times a day to reach the nearest water supply.
The daily walks involve carrying very heavy water jugs in harsh weather conditions: as high as 50 degrees Celsius in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. These conditions can cause diseases in the women and girls who fetch the water, such as lumbar disc herniation, spinal cord fractures, lower back pain, and miscarriages.
Many of the girls are deprived from school and studying because they have to fetch water every few hours.
In the absence of pipelines or tankers, people dig ditches – called Hootags – to collect rain water. Village residents use the Hootags as water reservoirs.
In many areas, residents have no choice but to use Hootag water for drinking and other necessities. The stagnant water is used for both humans and animals, is extremely contaminated, and causes all kinds of diseases.
This form of water supply poses additional risks to both women and girls.
In recent years, as many as 20 children have died from drowning in Hootags (The official IRNA news agency – July 23, 2019). For example, in May 2019, three elementary school girls went to a Hootag to quench their thirst. They fell into the water and drowned (The official IRNA news agency – May 29, 2019).
Last year, Hawa, a Baluch girl, was retrieving water from a Hootag when she was attacked by a Gando crocodile and lost one of her hands.
Lack of access to drinking water, lack of water supply system
Only 19 percent of Sistan and Baluchestan residents have access to safe drinking water. Water and sewage projects have been half-finished for 30 years.
Not a single meter of piping has been laid in any of the villages in this province. Citizens in some of these areas do not even have the salt water that once flowed in the water pipes.
Many neighborhoods in Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Baluchestan Province, do not have water, yet temperatures reach higher than 40 degrees. The deputy governor of Sistan and Baluchestan province said, “In the current situation, the technical problems associated with the water supply line, as well as the increase in construction, population growth, and the spread of the Coronavirus, have led to an increase of 25% in consumption” (The state-run salamatnews.com, July 4, 2020).
Some 80% of citizens in Zahedan face water shortages. One resident claimed that water cuts had “cut off their patience.” “In the city center, people endure the water cutoff for 6 hours a day. They make do the rest of the day with low-pressure water. But on the outskirts of the city, the water cutoff can be as long as 4 to 24 hours.”
Tanker water supply
The port city of Chabahar is one of the most important cities of Sistan and Baluchestan Province, lying on the coast of an ocean. But tankers provide 100% of the water supply in the villages in Chabahar (The official IRNA news agency – July 23, 2019).
The water in the villages around Chabahar is supplied by five water tanks every week by the water and sewage company. The discolored, foul-tasting water is not only of poor quality; it also contains frogs (The state-run Asr-e Iran website – June 15, 2020).
So, women are forced to go to the Hootag for the rest of their needs.
The high cost of drinking water
Until 1991, Zahedan had access to saltwater. However, the water treatment plants were subsequently privatized and the government made no provisions to establish an adequate water supply system in the province.
Amid the heat of the southeastern province, people are forced to go to water stations to fill water containers. Even in supermarkets, water is rarely available for purchase. When water is available to buy, it costs 800 to 2,000 Tomans per gallon.
In this province, about 74% of the population is below the food security and poverty line. Given the lack of permanent jobs, it is impossible for residents to buy drinking water.
Zahedan’s slum-dwellers are unable to buy water, including drinking water.
Water supply tankers go to only 1,000 villages. The remaining villages must pay 100,000 to 300,000 Tomans for each water tanker.
Due to the excessive water shortages, some villages have become uninhabited and residents have moved to Mashhad, Kerman, Golestan, Yazd, and Mazandaran to continue their lives.
The mullahs’ regime allocates very little of its budget to Iran’s infrastructure. Yet it spends billions on the war in Syria and Yemen and continues to conduct missile tests and terrorist activities.
Access to clean water is among women’s basic needs, and their security, well-being, dignity, and other basic human rights are dependent on a reliable infrastructure.
The situation of women in Sistan and Baluchestan is another example of the hell in which the Iranian people have been enslaved for more than 40 years by the religious dictatorship.