Sistan is located in the east of Iran. The surface water inflow in the area is nearly completely coming from Afghanistan. In view of the very small amount of average annual rainfall and limitations in the formation of water table in Sistan, droughts of the region must be attributed to the effects of shortage or absolute lack of water in the Hirmand River, which has repeatedly occurred in this region's history and has endangered the social and economic lives of Sistan's villages. In the last few decades, control and excessive use of waters of Hirmand River in Afghanistan have multiplied the effects of recent droughts in Sistan's villages. In the present research, in the course of comparative study of reduction effects in the flow of Hirmand waters upon agricultural activities of villagers, the role of underground water has been also taken into account.
Research was carried out by use of traverse method from autumn 2007 to summer 2008 in the course of which 101 villages, out of a total of 808 in the region, were surveyed and 260 persons from the Village Islamic Councils or local experts were interviewed. Therefore conclusions are partly based on observations in the field, partly on the quantitative analysis that has been carried out.
Results and Discussion
The result of the water limitation evaluation shows that approximately 75% of the sample villages suffer from severe or extremely severe limitation which goes to show the critical conditions in Sistan's rural areas.
With the decrease in the flow of Hirmand water, its first affect is appeared on the surface under cultivation. Because, with the limitation of water, farmers can only a little part of their ground keep under cultivation. The study about the scale of decrease of the ground under cultivation in sample villages and comparison of the situation before and after the drought 1998-2005, shows that in 57 villages (in total of 101) at the top of this drought the agriculture activities have been stopped completely.
Activities of stockmen the same as activities of planters are dependent on water undulations of Hirmand. Because with the decline in the Flow of Hirmand Water, canebrakes of Hamoun wetlands and it's margin pastures, provender plants, reminder of wheat, grain and etc, should be changing. This is cause to serious difficulties in providing food sources of farm animals and affects them. The study of decline of the farm animals in drought of 1998-2005, shows that from 101 villages in 79 of them more than 80% of its animals have been decreased.
On the other hand, the study of abundance of villages in dividing of the percentages of household with gardening activities shows that these activities in 71 villages are diffuses. In drought of 1998-2005, these activities have been completely stopped in 61 villages.
The study of abundance of villages in dividing of the percentages of household with quarry and hunt activities shows that these households in 17 villages near the Hamoun lakes are diffuse. With drought of 1998-2005 and atrophy of lakes, there were not the aquatic migrant birds and with the stop of quarry and hunt activities, Sistan's hunters and jaegers lost their jobs.
With the severe decline or stop of water flow of Hirmand to Sistan and the decrease of livelihood activities, major parts of families lost their income sources and caused to increase 59% in population under the aid of the auxiliary Organizations from 1996 to 2002. The result of this study shows that in 16 villages of 101, more than 40% of households are under the aid of Imam Khomeini community or social welfare Organization.
Also with the result of this study in the last critical drought (1998-2005) in the 46 villages of 101, some of people worked inevitably for their life in other states seasonally. These are shown in the decrease of their welfare and incomes.
On the other hand in the late decade the number of villages with negative growth of population has increased. The result of the study about these villages shows that from west to east in Sistan plain, the number of the villages with negative population growth decreased.
Thus it is a relation between better available water sources and the favorite situation of live in east parts. In this way, the correlation analysis between “the scale of available water of shafts” in sample villages and “the scale of the population growth” in these villages(using correlation coefficient of Kendall's tau-b) shows that there is a positive and significant relation in these two variants.
The results obtained from the research indicated that during the droughts, while agricultural activities partly continued in a limited number of villages in the eastern half of Sistan (with favorable approaches to underground water), such agricultural activities had been greatly reduced or totally stopped in other villages of the region.
However rural sustainable development in Sistan's villages depends on a complex series of actions. It depends on increasing the flow of the Hirmand's water through cooperation of Afghan government, the water storage and optimum utilization of the accessible water resources.