Climate change and the ecological footprint contribute to worsening the scarcity of water, a long-lasting problem in Iran. Some provinces, like that of Khuzestan, suffer serious water insecurity due to the shortage of the resource, but also to its bad quality due to air pollution and industrial waste. In order to counter water insecurity, a massive investment was made by the government in the construction of dams which, however, did not alleviate the lack of water, nor limited the recurrent flooding that put human lives, infrastructures, agriculture and urban settlements at risk. The water scarcity and the construction of dams have thus forced many communities to migrate to the big cities of the province, abandoning their rural villages and modifying the urban space with the increasing presence of informal settlements. From a historical perspective, this essay analyses the water scarcity in Iran and, as a case study, in the Khuzestan province. It will examine the socio-political effects generated by the water insecurity and the impact of dams built on the Kārun river to the local environment, urban areas and demographic dynamics. It will conclude on how the water emergency is currently a crucial issue for triggering popular protests that ask for the secure access to water together with political, economic and social demands, and can be therefore a threat to the stability of the country.
Keywords: Water crisis, Iranian Khuzestan, Water management, Kārun Dams, Climate Change, Popular protests.