Iran’s looming water crisis | Financial Time


This is an audio transcript of the FT press briefing podcast episode: Iran’s looming water crisis

Joanna s kao
Hello from the Financial Times. Today is Thursday, December 2, and it’s your FT News Briefing.

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The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended tournaments in China. Some hedge funds have to resort to extreme measures to recruit the best traders. In France, wind power has been swept up in a national political debate. And a severe water shortage sparked weeks of protests in Iran.

Najmeh Bozorgmehr
Water has surely become a hydro-political crisis in Iran, and it is probably the biggest challenge the Islamic Republic will face in the not too distant future.

Joanna s kao
I’m Joanna Kao, replacing Marc Filippino, and here is the news you need to start your day.

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The Women’s Tennis Association has announced that it will suspend tournaments in China due to Beijing’s management of tennis player Peng Shuai. Last month, the Chinese tennis star accused a former senior Communist Party official of sexual assault. Since then, his Weibo account has been censored and his whereabouts were unknown for several weeks. Yesterday, Steve Simon, the head of the US-based WTA, said he had not received satisfactory assurances that Peng was free, safe and uncensored. The organization organizes 10 world tournaments in China. It also has a contract to host its renowned finals in the city of Shenzhen in southern China. The WTA executive said he was concerned about the risks to his players and staff if his organization were to host events in China in 2022.

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Hedge funds have caught up well during the pandemic, so much so that in a particularly ruthless corner of the industry, multi-manager funds, there is a war for talent. Companies are doing everything they can to recruit the best traders and traders have become quite daring. Here is the FT’s hedge fund correspondent, Laurence Fletcher.

Laurence Fletcher
So I heard this case where a company approached a trader. They wanted to hire them. The trader said, okay, if you want to hire me, you have to shell out $ 10 million. They prefer to say, well, are there negotiations in there? They are told, no negotiation.

Joanna s kao
So Laurence, how did the war for talent in these hedge funds become so brutal?

Laurence Fletcher
What really changed is that these funds worked so well during the pandemic, basically, and they worked really well because a) they diversified into a lot of different strategies and assets, it was great when the markets were agitated. And they’re also very good at risk management, which basically means when the markets are going down really fast they’re very good at reducing risk and when the markets are, you know, bouncing back, they’re very good. to somehow increase risk again. So basically these funds have, you know, inflated their assets by 100 billion in two years. So they just need more traders to handle all that money.

Joanna s kao
It’s Laurence Fletcher. It covers hedge funds for FT.

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In northern France, residents are protesting against a multibillion-euro offshore wind energy project. It is not the first time that there have been protests against wind farms, but this has collided with national elections. This is Sarah White from the FT.

Sarah Blanche
This sparked particularly strong protests locally. You had, you know, fishermen who got out in their boats out to sea when the drilling started underwater, the drilling started this year and kind of sent a flotilla. So it was a pretty colorful event that caught the eye. But I think it’s not so much this wind farm in particular, it’s more that politicians have thrown themselves on it because wind farms more generally have become quite symbolic in France. And particularly on the right, on the far right and in the conservative party, wind farms have become more and more of some kind of ideological target in the sense that, you know, people equate that to the destruction of countryside or landscapes. French. And that suddenly made it this incredibly, you know, vocal talking point in France.

Joanna s kao
But Sarah, in the larger clean energy debate, how much does France need from wind power? I mean, the country is known to have a very large nuclear power industry. Does it play in this debate?

Sarah Blanche
I mean, this is a huge part of the debate. The French nuclear industry has been a source of great national pride for many years. It is at the origin of many jobs in France, so it has a lot of support. I mean, that is, it includes government. And that includes in particular the parties of the right, of the left, of the left and among the environmentalist parties he has detractors. You know, there is concern about over-reliance on nuclear as a secure source of energy. But there is certainly a sort of very strong pro-nuclear lobby in France, and this is playing a role in the debate on wind power. There’s a feeling among the manufacturers and developers of wind projects that the anti-sentiment in France is partly coming from, you know, some sort of strong pro-nuclear lobby that doesn’t necessarily want that rivalry with other sources. of energy. But what all analysts and government institutions will tell you is that without developing and massively increasing the sources of renewable energy in France, and there is not only wind, there is also solar, France will never achieve its energy transition objectives in the medium and long term. .

Joanna s kao
Sarah White is the FT’s correspondent in Paris.

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In Iran, there were large protests in the southern city of Isfahan. Hundreds of farmers and other residents camped out, mostly occupying the parched river bed of the city’s main waterway.

Najmeh Bozorgmehr
They wanted water. They swore not to leave until the water had returned to the river, which was an impossible requirement.

Joanna s kao
Najmeh Bozorgmehr, FT correspondent in Tehran, followed the protests. She says they started off peacefully.

Najmeh Bozorgmehr
And then the security forces intervened and cleaned the riverbed. And then there were clashes at midnight. But the people of Isfahan who, thousands of whom had joined the farmers the previous week, returned to the riverbed and staged their main protests. They chanted anti-regime slogans and riot police used tear gas and shotguns to disperse the crowd. Many were injured. I haven’t heard of any deaths, but dozens have apparently been arrested.

Joanna s kao
And this water crisis is not just a problem for Isfahan. Najmeh says the country has faced water shortages for thousands of years.

Najmeh Bozorgmehr
But over the past few decades, the problem has become serious. The population has more than doubled. Iran has struggled with drought for two decades. Meanwhile, there has been state mismanagement whereby populist politicians capitalized on the votes of farmers and rural people and allowed them to abuse groundwater resources. Farmers are planting water-hungry crops and no one in government is stopping them.

Joanna s kao
And even if the government tried to deal with the shortage in the Zayanderud River in Isfahan or elsewhere, Najmeh says he wouldn’t have many options.

Najmeh Bozorgmehr
To be honest, there is not much the government can do at this point because there is no water behind the dams. The Zayanderud dam is 86 percent empty. It’s almost empty, so the water can’t be given to the farmers. On the other hand, the government is grappling with US sanctions and declining incomes, so it’s not even easy to pay the farmers to go home until, I don’t know. , if it rains in the spring, if there is more water later. So it is a very complicated situation for the government that it can neither give water nor a lot of money to farmers to compensate for their losses.

Joanna s kao
Najmeh told me that the sanctions make it difficult for Iran to even consider options like new irrigation technology. But the international community must be careful.

Najmeh Bozorgmehr
Yes, I think this crisis, this water crisis in Iran definitely needs international help. It will be the biggest crisis. And one environmental activist rightly told me that if that happens, it wouldn’t just be Iran’s problem. Iran has a population of 85 million. If there is no water, where do they go? They have to emigrate from the country. It’s going to become a global problem.

Joanna s kao
Najmeh Bozorgmehr is the FT’s correspondent in Tehran.

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You can read more about all of these stories at FT.com. This has been your daily FT News briefing. Make sure to come back tomorrow for the latest business news.

This transcript was generated automatically. If by any chance there is an error, please send the details for correction to: [email protected]. We will do our best to make the change as soon as possible.


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