A Diamond in the Heart of Desert
Meighan Wetland, 20km northeast of the nuclear industrial city of Arak in central Iran, with an area of 25 thousand hectares and a history of two thousand years, is one of the most unique wetlands in the country and the Middle East, which hosts many migratory birds each year, most of which are directly from Siberia. Also, is an important habitat for migratory birds in the center of the country. In addition to its central role in biodiversity, its seasonal lake has direct effects on the containment of sand, salt, and air pollution sources. In years with good rainfall, the wetland has significant water and in years of water shortage, the surface of the wetland generally dries and becomes desert.
The region is also home to unique species of plants and unspoiled landscapes. It meets environmental standards and is receptive to many tourists and nature lovers. Meighan Wetland with international capability, the largest sodium sulfate mine in the world is located in this region and also, is one of the major reservoirs of Halophyte in Iran.
Currently, more than 60% of the country's need for sodium sulfate is met from the resources of Meighan Wetland, while only eight kilometers of wetland resources are exploiting. Explorations have been carried out in the region since about 2003, and 110 km from the wetland has sodium sulfate resources as the richest resources of its kind in Iran.
The amount of mineral reserves in the wetland is 133 million tons with a grade of 33.88%. This mineral is used in the production of detergents, cleaners, pulp, glass, textiles, and leather.
Despite the vitality of the wetland during its life, there have been atrocities with this natural effect, From the construction of dams upstream of the catchment area, reduction of water entering the wetland, negligence of the people such as change of land use and grazing of livestock beyond the capacity of the area and burning of its reeds, split the wetland lake and uninterrupted extraction of minerals in this area.
In a part of the wetland, a mineral harvesting plant is operating, which plows parts of the wetland annually, and this causes changes in the wetland ecosystem. Destruction of Meighan Wetland by widening the access road by the Minerals Factory, which caused water to not flow between the north and south of this road and the wetland to dry up sooner. Also, the overflow of urban and industrial wastewater has caused this wetland to enter a severe critical stage.
The mining company's trucks are commuting on the road that stretches right in the middle of the Meighan wetland. A little further, the excavators hit the water and did not stop for a moment. The bottom of the wetland is plowed and sodium sulfate is loaded onto trucks. The road is not cleared for a moment from the dust that cars lift it into the sky. the wetland is lost in sulfate dust and salt and the noise of trucks.
All of this is happening as the world shifts to sodium sulfate-free washing powders.
Environmental activists believe that the company's activities should be stopped so, this wetland does not suffer the fate of other wetlands. One of the main reasons for the non-accession of Meighan Wetland to the International The convention is the presence of this company in the wetland, while this can be introduced internationally.
Iran Minerals Company has been operating on Meighan Wetland for 17 years and is currently obliged to dispose of its tailings and wastes that have been stored with the company during this period, after evaluating and ensuring that the tailings are not polluted. And return the waste into the wetland holes and cavities created.
From the perspective of environmental activists, such an issue is not approved at all. Because the waste in the pits and holes and the original places are not returned and emptied. Also, tailings and wastes become stabilized and hardened in the long run and become untouched and lost their density, and eventually become the source of new fine dust. In some parts, the width of the wetland road has increased due to the return of tailings and wastes by truck. So that one of the resolutions was that the width of the wetland road should be reduced and should not exceed 8 meters.
The most important solution is to stop the extraction of sodium sulfate from a mine called Meighan Wetland, which is a long-term breeding ground for birds as well as a tourist destination and there is no justification.
Despite this elegy, Iranians from different parts of the country come to this region for adventure to enjoy the landscapes of the only desert wetland in Iran, which will be accompanied by the extravagant extraction of Iran Minerals Company. Sina Yaghoobpoor explored this area to show, the tourists with an in-depth look alongside the gradual death of Meighan Wetland since 2016.