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Iran hit by unprecedented drought

TEHRAN, Iran, April 19 (AFP) - Iran is facing an unprecedented drought threatening crops and livestock in a number of provinces, television reported Wednesday.

The "disaster" reported in 15 of the country' 28 provinces was discussed at an emergency meeting, bringing together the ministers of the interior, agriculture and energy, Abdolvahed Mussavi-Lari, Issa Kalantari and Hossein Bitaraf respectively.

"The drought in five eastern provinces is a serious threat to the rearing of livestock and arable farming in the area," the television quoted Mussavi-Lari as saying.

"The cost of the drought so far is put at 1.374 million dollars affecting mainly the provinces of Khuzestan, Fars, Bushehr, Yazd, Kerman and Khorassan," and other provinces mostly in eastern Iran, said Ahmad Khoram, a coordination and development official at the Interior Ministry, quoted by the daily Qods newspaper.

"Although rainfall has risen 23 per cent in Iran overall this year, it is still down between 20 and 30 per cent in the main agricultural provinces," he added.

Since 1978 Iran has experienced 13 years of non-consecutive drought, but the main problem of Iranian farmers remains the lack of know-how, particularly on irrigation, which could result in a saving a 30 to 40 per cent of water supplies.