The spread of water crisis across Iran has compelled the government and water authorities to devise costly and, not necessarily, effective plans to help mitigate its impacts.
Official reports say nearly 5,000 villages across the country are struggling with varying degrees of water scarcity. To remedy the problem, Iran’s Energy Ministry has come up with 233 plans to construct dams, expand the water network and implement 120 projects for supplying water to drought-hit regions.
About 93 dam construction projects have top-priority status.
The government has allocated 40 trillion rials ($1.2 billion) to the ministry and its subsidiaries in the current Iranian year (started March 20) to carry out the schemes, while roughly 76 trillion rials ($2.2 billion) are needed to complete 924 incomplete water supply projects, according to Ali Asghar Qane’, deputy for planning and development at the National Water and Wastewater Company.
“The banks have agreed to invest 24 trillion rials ($693 million) into these projects, which is a far cry from what we need but it’s enough to finish around 28 projects,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA.
Costs Outweigh Benefits
While it is encouraging to see that something is being done to address the worsening crisis, which has afflicted nearly the entire country and forced countless rural residents to abandon their villages in search of better opportunities in big cities, observers say these mega projects are unlikely to effectively address Iran’s struggle with water shortage.
Reports about transferring water from the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea to the plains in central Iran, which are among the more publicized projects, have become a staple in news outlets.
Advocates of the schemes say the projects are essential to battling drought and sustaining industrial activities (most of which, such as steel and petrochemical production, are water-intensive), while critics argue that the plans will only offer temporary solutions that are not worth their environmental and financial costs.
Energy officials apparently make up the bulk of supporters, while a majority of opponents are environmentalists, climatologists and activists.
Excessive construction of dams is blamed for the drying up of rivers, such as Zayanderoud in Isfahan, and lakes, such as Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran.
Critics, such as Mohammad Darvish, director of the Public Participation Office at the Department of Environment, say in such projects, “the costs outweigh the benefits,” and stress that there are more feasible and sustainable means of meeting a region’s water needs without harming water resources in the long run.
Rain water harvesting, judicious water use (especially in the agro sector that guzzles more than 90% of the country’s water resources), promoting modern irrigation techniques, recycling wastewater, separating potable water from wastewater and implementation of watershed plans are among measures suggested by experts to help conserve water.
Environmentalists, social scientists and the cross-section of academia and media have for years appealed to the masses to cut water consumption and called on officials to undertake meaningful reforms, to no avail.
There is a strong consensus that if water consumption patterns do not change in the near future, many parts of the country will turn into barren desert while entire towns and villages will become uninhabitable.
By Financial Tribune