60° E, Iran

Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada

“More than 90 percent of our wetlands have completely dried up.”

— Alamdar Alamdari, environmental researcher, Fars Province

The Islamic Republic of Iran has 105 wetlands, stretching three million hectares of land. With 24 sites designated as wetlands of international importance, about one-third of them are under pressure or in critical condition. Wetlands around the world play a large part in ecosystem biodiversity. In Iran, large populations of migratory birds use these wetlands as a resting point on their way toward Africa and India. Iran’s lakes and wetlands have been at risk due to degradation and these impacts become exacerbated because of climate change. When these wetlands diminish in size, sand storms, dust storms, and drought in the country become more common and more extreme, creating concern for desertification in the region.

Although these dust storms have become a common occurrence in Iran that cause little panic, they are connected to larger issues in climate change like pollution of air and water which impacts climate systems, destroys the quality of water resources, and creates toxic waste and acid rain. More than one million hectares of Iran’s land is agricultural, which is also impacted by the drying of lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

Shadegan’s wetlands, for example, are typically home to green palm trees, sheep, cows, water buffalo, birds, and residents who get by through farming. Influence from foreign powers have brought agribusiness like the sugarcane industry into its wetlands, but due to pesticides and pollution, there has been an increase in water contamination, not to mention sugar cane is not native to the region. The crop is known for its high water consumption, unfavorable in times of drought, which results in habitat loss and soil erosion. Today, white, powdery salt is all that is left of much of these wetland plantations, making the land unsuitable to those who once thrived there.