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The Implications of Industrial and Nuclear Pollution in the Aras River and the Responsibilities of the Armenian and Iranian Governments

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A Turkish Activist started this petition

Drafted by a Turkish Activist

It has come to public attention that the Armenian government has been systematically discharging untreated wastewater from industrial and mining activities into the Aras River for a prolonged period. A particular concern revolves around the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, situated 36 km from Yerevan, which is characterized as one of the five first-generation power plants worldwide and often cited as the most hazardous.

It should be underscored that the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant in Armenia, which utilizes several hundred tons of uranium annually, contributes to the contamination of the Aras River as its wastewater enters the river without appropriate treatment.

The Iranian authorities' response to this situation has been, at best, inconsistent. Although officials within the Islamic Republic of Iran may either deny the Aras's contamination by heavy metals and radioactive substances or minimize its severity, health reports detailing an increase in diseases, particularly stomach cancer, among the residents of the river's banks in Iran, refute these denials. The leakage of radioactive materials from the aging Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, confirmed by regional and international experts, including the European Union, has exacerbated these concerns.

The pollution in the industrial cities of Miri, Agarak, and Shvanidzor in Armenia is also evident and significant, occasionally inundating the Aras River. Such pollution has unbalanced the river's biological structure for extensive stretches, with research highlighting the presence of numerous heavy metals, including excessive levels of lead and arsenic, even found in fish.

This contamination has broader implications, endangering much of Iran's human, animal, and plant life by polluting drinking and agricultural water in extensive regions, most notably in Ardabil, East Azerbaijan, and West Azerbaijan.

Furthermore, the Khoda Afarin Dam lake has been affected by these pollutants. A scientific paper compiled in the spring of 2023 by Kharazmi University (Tehran) details the environmental impacts in the region, including the drying of fertile plains and the threat to food security in the northwest of Iran due to pollution in the Aras River.

A critical concern regarding the water of the Aras River is its contamination with lead metal. The clean water standards in the United States stipulate that the allowable amount of lead in drinking water is "zero." In contrast, Iran's national standard permits a maximum of 10 micrograms per liter.

The recent analysis highlights alarming disparities in lead concentrations in various regions. In Nordooz village, the lead concentration is 8.41 micrograms per liter, while in Duzal village, it stands at 27.04 micrograms per liter, and in Kordasht village, a staggering 140.84 micrograms per liter. The latter figure represents an excess of 14 times the allowable limit.

Furthermore, the Khoda Afarin Dam's lead concentration was 26.61 micrograms per liter, over 2.6 times the legal limit. One of the most significant sources of this contamination is the pollution originating from the Agarak Copper-Molybdenum mine complex, located in Syunik Province, Armenia, on the border of Iran. The discharge of lead from this complex into the Aras River has led to the severe contamination of its water, culminating in the pollution of the Khoda Afarin Dam. Given the well-documented risks associated with lead exposure, this issue represents a crucial health and environmental hazard that requires immediate attention and redress.

The alarming levels of lead in the Aras River's water, significantly exceeding permissible limits in several areas, emphasize the critical health and environmental risks, particularly from the pollution caused by the Agarak Copper-Molybdenum mine complex in Syunik Province, Armenia. Long-standing exploitation of copper mines on the northern side of the Aras River by Armenia has further reduced water quality.

The signatories of this petition call upon the Iranian authorities to act decisively and engage with the Republic of Armenia to halt the pollution emanating from nuclear, industrial, and mining activities in the Aras River. This situation requires immediate redress to protect the region's environmental integrity and its inhabitants' health and well-being.

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