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Water conflict for intensive pistachio production and Golgohar iron mine in Sirjan, Iran

While the two big industries have had the major impact on water shortage and issues, residents of Sirjan have been left behind and are "thirsty" for water justice.


Kerman Province in the south-central region of Iran is known for its pistachio farms, especially in the city of  Sirjan. Pistachio production has dropped by more than 50 percent while this province used to provide more than 80 percent of Iran’s pistachios [1]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Water conflict for intensive pistachio production and Golgohar iron mine in Sirjan, Iran
Country:Iran, Islamic Rep.
State or province:Kerman
Location of conflict:Sirjan
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Tailings from mines
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific commodities:Water
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Pistachios are Iran’s biggest export after crude oil, with 250,000 tonnes of the nut produced per year. Iran earned $1,2 billion from pistachio exports last year (21 March 2017 to 20 March 2018). Likewise Sirjan, other cities in Kerman province have grown rich from pistachios, but time is running out for the industry as unconstrained farming and water issues take a devastating toll. Near the city of Sirjan, a long line of enormous sinkholes mark the points where an underground aquifer was pumped completely dry, and the ground collapsed, while pistachio grovers and other farmers and residents are left without water [5].

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,500,000,000 (Golgohar iron mine)
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:200,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Golgohar Mining Industry and Co from Iran, Islamic Rep.
Relevant government actors:The Government of Iran
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Pistachio grovers
Forms of mobilization:Property damage/arson
Complains since protesting about water issues in Iran is either illegal, censured, or banned
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:The government of Iran has proposed to allocate the already little water left for more profitable iron extraction of the Golgohar mine. Resident and pistachio grovers have been left without drinking water.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The conflict for water between two big industries pistachio and iron have left residents of Sirjan in a vulnerable and marginalised position for water needs. The water has been allocated to iron mine and pistachio farmers have been left without water for irrigation as well.
Sources & Materials

[1] The New York Times (2015) Scarred Riverbeds and Dead Pistachio Trees in a Parched Iran
[click to view]

[2] Cosmos 2017: Iran’s pistachio growers get that sinking feeling
[click to view]

[2] Cosmos (2017): Iran’s pistachio growers get that sinking feeling
[click to view]

[4] Environmental Activism in the Middle East: Prospects and Challenges
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update02/11/2019
Conflict ID:4788
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