Iranian farmers protest and demand water be released from dam



TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Thousands of farmers in central Iran joined a protest Friday demanding that authorities open a dam to relieve drought-stricken areas, state television reported.

Several prominent actors and athletes have joined the peaceful movement in the city of Isfahan, urging the government to step in to help farmers suffering from increasing droughts which have worsened over the years. The protests began earlier this month.

The country’s first vice president Mohamad Mokhber is due to appear on television later Friday to address farmers’ concerns.

Drought has been a problem for Iran for the past 30 years, but it has worsened over the past decade, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Iranian Meteorological Organization says about 97 percent of the country is currently facing some level of drought.

The agricultural area around Isfahan was once well supplied by the Zayandeh Roud River, but neighboring factories have drawn more and more from it over the years. The river once flowed under historic bridges in downtown Isfahan, but is now a barren strip of land.

In 2012, farmers clashed with police in a town in Isfahan province, breaking a water pipe that diverted some 50 million cubic meters of water per year to a neighboring province. Similar protests have continued sporadically since then, and the government at one point paid around $ 250 to each family affected by the crisis.



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