Hundreds of farmers protested over water shortages outside the governor of Esfahan province in the city of Isfahan Wednesday. Among videos posted on social media showing police and some clashes, one shows hundreds of farmers and their families chanting “scoundrels.”
Another shows protesters chanting against local authorities for failing to provide water for their farms and keep their animals alive. “We will get our share of the water even if we have to die for it,” some chanted.
Some farmers, who believe low prices set by the government for dairy products and the high prices of animal fodder are bankrupting them, brought hungry cattle on pick-up trucks to the rally. Protesters also tried to take their cattle into the grounds of the governor’s office. Some slaughtered animals and splashed their blood on signs outside government offices, or emptied milk on the ground.
Farmers in Esfahan province believe they are not getting their ‘fair’ share of water from Zayandeh Rud, the largest river in central Iran, to irrigate crops and enable livestock farming, with undue amounts going to the provinces of Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari and Khuzestan. The river, once bountiful all year long, has in the past couple of decades run dry before reaching Esfahan.
Like many other regions in Iran, Esfahan has also faced drought this year. Mohammad Asghari, an official of the Iran Meteorological Organization, said July 6 that the average precipitation across Iran in the first six months of the ‘farming year’ just finished (September to June) was less than 50 percent of the same period last year, with rainfall down from 278mm to 130mm.
A smaller protest rally was held Wednesday by livestock farmers in Damghan, in Semnan province, northern Iran. Farmers who marched to the provincial governor’s office carried banners demanding they be allowed to set their own prices, based on the costs of animal fodder and other expenses, rather than have prices for meat and dairy products set by the government: one placard claimed that a bottle of mineral water sold for 60,000 rials (25 cents) while the same amount of milk was 45,000 (18 cents). Takab in West Azarbaijan province has also seen protests by animal farmers, who July 4 blocked the road in front of the city governor’s office with their cattle.