Crucible for Survival: Environmental Security and Justice in the Indian Ocean Region

By Timothy Doyle; Melissa Risely | Go to book overview

Fire and Firepower
ENERGY SECURITY IN THE INDIAN
OCEAN REGION

TIMOTHY DOYLE

As “Westerners” traveling in Iran in what George W. Bush has called part of the “Axis of Evil,” what quickly became apparent to us was that Iranians, like all who dwell in the IOR, wrestle with the daily grind of securing access to the vital ingredients for survival. Most environmental issues in Iran are reminiscent of those experienced in many parts of the majority world. They are issues of human survival: shelter, energy, water, and food security, all of which are threatened by rapid and uncontrolled industrialization. This industrialization is centered on the petrochemical industry, with few of the environmental safeguards and end-of-pipe technologies available to more affluent societies.

Energy issues are increasingly apparent on national environmental agendas, and Iran possesses approximately 40 percent of all known natural gas deposits on the planet. Mechanisms to transport this gas to neighboring countries via pipelines for market returns are now being explored.1 In addition, Iran is currently developing a nuclear capacity, which brings with it an additional range of environmental problems and traditional security issues to confront.

Air and water pollution in the Iranian capital, Tehran, as in numerous other regions in the IOR, have now reached a critical stage. The city itself lies in a valley beneath a massive mountain range. As a consequence, the capital sits in a convergence layer that traps the fetid and polluted air of the overcrowded city. Iran also wrestles with major water shortages. Moving south, through the center of Iran, we travel across a vast flood plain of biblical proportions, framed to the west, north, and east by distant, majestic mountain ranges capped with ice (not tundra but pebbles). But in arriving at the famous cities of Shiraz and Esfahan, people scratch at forms of agriculture that are sustained by only 150 milliliters of water per year.

Traveling further south, and then east, we arrived at the ancient city of Bam, devastated only months earlier by an earthquake that claimed the lives of 40,000 people. The earthen houses of Bam had been constructed using the old methods, with no vertical struts. The sad reality was that during the earthquake, the roofs of the shelters had fallen to the floors, killing all within. Again, it seems the poorest exist and live their lives in the most vulnerable environments.

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