Among the environmental measures laid out in the sixth economic development plan (2016-21), Iran’s water woes are given special attention by the government of President Hassan Rouhani.
The plan, which has not yet been approved by the Majlis, was released online last week on the government website.
While the Rouhani administration has tried to cover the most pressing environmental problems in the plan, they seem to have failed to include other topics of importance.
Overhauling outdated agricultural irrigation, practicing watershed management, balancing water supply and demand and reducing air pollutants have been mentioned in the plan.
This is while topics that have been omitted include, but are not limited to, developing clean, alternative sources of energy and measures to collect rainwater.
The main articles pertaining to environmental measures are 11, 12 and 13.
Article 11 obliges both government entities and private enterprises to take environmental assessments seriously and ensure detailed evaluations are carried out to minimize environmental impacts of small and large projects.
The criteria that assessors must adhere to will be decided by the Department of Environment and will be made available after their approval by the Council of Ministers.
Article 12 suggests increasing water and power tariffs to encourage people to be more judicious in using both.
The extra revenue will be used to implement anti-air pollution measures and support non-oil exports to move away from an economy heavily reliant on oil revenue.
Article 13, which solely focuses on managing the country’s water crisis, sets an ambitious goal of reducing Iran’s annual water consumption by 11 billion cubic meters by 2021.
To achieve this goal, the plan calls for ditching water-intensive crops in favor of drought-resistant ones, modernizing irrigation methods across farmlands (about 400,000 hectares every year) and upholding the water rights of rivers and wetlands.
The government will help farmers upgrade their irrigation equipment by paying for 85% of the costs.
Official reports say nearly 5,000 villages across the country are struggling with varying degrees of water scarcity.
The government has allocated 40 trillion rials ($1.2 billion) to the Energy Ministry and its subsidiaries in the current Iranian year (started March 20) to carry out water schemes for combating the crisis, while roughly 76 trillion rials ($2.2 billion) are needed to complete 924 incomplete water supply projects.
Promotion of rainwater harvesting, judicious water use (especially in the agricultural sector that guzzles more than 90% of the country’s water resources), modern irrigation techniques, recycling wastewater and watershed plans has been 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, but 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