A former agriculture minister under Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency and current member of the advising committee to help form President-elect Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet Issa Kalantari spoke to Ghanoon newspaper about a variety of economic challenges Iran is facing today and in the decades ahead, in particular the potential water crisis.
Kalantari, who heads research on agriculture for the Expediency Council’s Center of Strategic Research, said, “Rouhani’s administration will not have a simple task. This current administration did not fill the warehouses and did not forecast for the transfer of administrations. Unfortunately, the country will be handed over to Rouhani with empty warehouses, an empty treasury, empty ports and an empty Central Bank.
“I am saying this so that people know that they must wait,” Kalantari continued. “When in the fall prices increase, they will not see it as Rouani’s doing.” He added, “To return from 2013 to 2005, it will take at least two years,” in reference to undoing the eight years of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.
On Iran’s water crisis, Kalatantari said, “Our main problem that threatens us, that is more dangerous than Israel, America or political fighting, is the issue of living in Iran. It is that the Iranian plateau is becoming uninhabitable … groundwater has decreased and a negative water balance is widespread, and no one is thinking about this.”
Kalantari continued, “I am deeply worried about the future generations. There has been livelihood in Iran for 7,000 years. We do not have a right with this lack of planning to confront the country with this great of a challenge.” On whether others have noticed this issue, Kalantari said, “I have said it everywhere. If this situation is not reformed, in 30 years Iran will be a ghost town. Even if there is precipitation in the desert, there will be no yield, because the area for groundwater will be dried and water will remain at ground level and evaporate.”
“All the bodies of natural water in Iran are drying up: Lake Urumieh, Bakhtegan, Tashak, Parishan and others,” Kalantari said. “I am talking about the occurrence of a crisis. People’s lives are being threatened.”
Kalantari said that the “deserts in Iran are spreading, and I am warning you that South Alborz and East Zagros will be uninhabitable and people will have to migrate. But where? Easily I can say that of the 75 million people in Iran, 45 million will have uncertain circumstances.” Kalantari continued, “If we start this very day to address this, it will take 12 to 15 years to balance.”
On the claim by Ahmadinejad’s administration that Iran had produced 118 million tons of agricultural goods, Kalantari said, “If this statistic were true, we would be one of the happiest people in the world. Also, we could export $20 billion worth of food, but agricultural production has a [specific] definition. ‘Agricultural production’ is a term used for goods that are consumed by individuals or given to warehouses. If we apply this criteria, then we see that agricultural production in Iran was not more than 68 million tons.”
“Those who lie about statistics are working with foreign brokers,” said Kalantari. “Based on these statistics offered by the administration, wheat was not imported on time.” According to Kalantari, the four-month delay in the purchase of wheat “cost the country $1 billion” more than if they had bought it on time.
“Now who is answerable for this $1 billion damage in this field based on false statistics?” he asked. “Who has benefited? Naturally, the foreign brokers.”