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Iran: Droughts - Operation Update Report n° 1, DREF n°: MDRIR005

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Summary of major revisions made to emergency plan of action:

This DREF operation timeframe has been extended for two months to complete activities that have been delayed or suspended due to measures related to the recent disasters across the country such as earthquakes, floods, and population movement. Also, an assessment is underway to chalk out which national/private banks in the country are not under sanctions lists so that the cash transfer programming component can be materialized or modified in transaction modalities. The remaining activities are as below:

  • Unconditional/multipurpose cash distributions in target provinces via bank transfer

  • Cash component needs banking assessments

  • Financial reports and reconciliation of working advance need time as well to close the operation.


Description of the disaster

Overall Drought Situation in Iran:

The Iranian climate is mostly arid or semi-arid and it is heavily affected by depleting water resources, as a result of rising demand, salinization, groundwaters overexploitation, and increasing drought frequency. The country, where groundwater is the primary source of water, has a long history of inefficiency in its water distribution network, particularly in the agricultural sector. Despite not experiencing food insecurity, Iran faces paramount challenges in safeguarding long-term water access during the dry spell. All sectors that rely on the water are exposed, from agriculture to power production and public water supply. From 2 to 20 million people are at high to medium risk of drought-related impacts. On top of poor precipitation during the 2020-2021 winter, high temperatures have caused more snow to melt, reducing the amount of water stored for later use during the drier months (i.e., late spring and summer).

Since the beginning of the drought onset, research units, the media, and public authorities have been emphasizing the potential severity with time. On 10 July 2021, the First Vice President of Iran, Eshaq Jahangiri stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran requires national solidarity and integration to overcome challenges and past crises. He described water as one of the biggest problems in Iran, saying “if we cannot deal with challenges in time, they can become complicated issues”.

While meteorological/hydrological droughts act as triggers and intensify the rate of depletion in country-wide groundwater storage, basin-scale groundwater depletion in Iran is primarily caused by extensive human water withdrawals. Continuation of unsustainable groundwater management in Iran can lead to potentially irreversible effects on land and the environment, threatening the country’s water, food, and socio-economic security. According to a recent alert in March 2022 from GDACS (Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System) Iran has been categorized in Orange level along with MENA Neighboring countries. According to Iran's National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center, the country was facing one of its toughest rainfall seasons in 50 years.

The rainfall had dropped by nearly 50% in South Khorasan province this year compared to the long-term average and by as much as 80% in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan provinces. Drought-linked water shortages have also led to rolling power cuts in areas supplied by hydroelectric plants, which provide about 15% of Iran's power supply, according to the energy ministry. According to the World Meteorological Organization, over the next five years (2021-2025) the average rainfall is expected to be 75 percent lower than normal and the average temperature is between 50 to 75 percent higher than the long-term average. According to the national center for drought and crisis management, since the beginning of the current water year (23 September 2020), precipitation has declined by 41 percent compared to the long-term average and 53 percent compared to the same period last year (May 2021). The lowest rainfall occurred in Hormozgan, Sistan-Baluchestan, and Kerman provinces, being short of rain by 86, 82, and 65 percent, respectively. Over the last two years, Iran was doused with rain which was unprecedented during the past 50 years, but last year, the country faced drought, which shows a 40 percent decrease in rainfall.