Iran’s pistachio farms are dying of thirst.
That may not, in itself, seem like major news. But it has a greater significance.
After crude oil, pistachio nuts are Iran’s biggest export, with only the United States producing more. Yet a drought lasting years, along with uncontrolled pumping of water by farmers, has created a situation where the pistachio crop is drying up.
AFP reports that:
In Kerman province in southern Iran, cities have grown rich from pistachios, but time is running out for the industry.
Some 300,000 of Iran’s 750,000 water pumps are illegal—a big reason why the United Nations says Iran is officially transitioning from a state of “water stress” to “water scarcity.”
In 2013, Iran’s chamber of commerce carried out a survey showing that Kerman province was losing about 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) of pistachio farms every year to desertification.
Overall, Iran’s water crisis is so severe that it could lead to mass internal migration and emigration. Even in the water-scarce Middle East, Iran is one of the most imperiled countries. Drought conditions were one of the factors that led to Syria’s civil war with its horrendous consequences.
The above-linked AFP report notes that some Iranian pistachio farmers have “taken matters into their own hands” and installed drip-irrigation systems—which save their crops, allowing them to flourish again while using up to 70 percent less water.
The systems, however, are expensive, and only farmers with “cash and connections in Tehran” can obtain them.
What the report doesn’t mention is that modern drip irrigation is a technology that was invented and developed in Israel. From Israel, drip irrigation has spread throughout the world and was a key factor in the Green Revolution in Asia and Africa.
Not long ago, however, Israel was counted among the Middle Eastern countries facing a water crisis. What changed the situation over the past decade was Israel’s unique, revolutionary desalination and water-conservation technology, which has made it the world’s leader in the field.
Yet, just as one can be sure that Iran’s state-controlled media are not highlighting the fact that the drip irrigation now helping some of Iran’s farmers is an Israeli innovation, one can likewise be sure that the government of the ayatollahs will not—no matter how severe Iran’s water crisis gets—turn to the newer Israeli technology for salvation.
The regime has a history of rejecting assistance from Israel even when disasters have struck. As The Times of Israel notes, in the case of the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, which killed over 26,000,
a spokesman for Tehran’s Interior Ministry said he would accept help from all countries except one: Israel. “The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations with the exception of the Zionist regime,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile Israel’s new water technology is one of the factors fostering ties with countries that were once unfriendly or hostile. Israel (pop. 8 million) is helping China (pop. 1.357 billion) solve its serious water problems. Israel is also providing key assistance for India’s (pop. 1.252 billion) chronic water shortage. (In the case of a traditionally friendly country, Israel is described as “leading a water revolution” in California.)
Closer to home, Israel has been supplying crucial drinking water to Jordan (with which it fought wars in 1948 and 1967) for two decades. And the huge Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal project will be channeling desalinated drinking water to Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians—not known for instilling a love of Israel.
Sometimes, though, in case of dire need, pragmatism can trump old or even current hatred. It’s seen increasingly in Israel’s warming ties with Sunni Arab governments in general.
But in the case of Iran—where, as AFP reports, “once-green fields are now nothing but dirt furrows” and “farming is being destroyed”—no such pragmatism toward Israel is on the horizon. Hate has to burn out slowly and meanwhile wreak havoc for other countries and for Iran itself.