Ahwaz: the most polluted place on Earth
The choking orange smog that routinely descends on Ahwaz City is familiar to its inhabitants whose quality of life and longevity are under attack from the noxious fumes of unbridled industrial development.
In terms of suffocating air pollution, Ahwaz outstrips Beijing and Delhi by a long stretch, according to the latest findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ahwaz City's measure of air-born particulate matter (PM10) is 372 ug/m3, which is a third more than the world's second-most polluted city, Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar and the only city in the world where average PM10 levels rise above 300 ug/m3.
The astonishing level of air pollution has taken its toll on the local population, which mostly belongs to the persecuted Ahwazi Arab ethnic group. Life expectancy is the lowest in Iran and residents suffer high levels of respiratory problems and cancer.
The Iranian government has sought to blame the United States for the pollution, claiming that the toxic dust is the result of the use of depleted uranium bombs that were dropped during the Iraq War.
However, nearby Kuwait City and Bushehr have PM10 levels far below Ahwaz City and none of the respiratory illnesses suffered by the inhabitants of the Ahwaz region. Ahwaz City has by far the worst track-record in the Gulf region.
Contributing factors include desertification caused by river diversion and the draining of the marshes and the oil, petrochemical, metals and sugar and paper processing plants in and around Ahwaz.