Afghanistan blocks flow of Hirmand River into Iran

Financial Tribune- Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said by building dams on Hirmand River, the eastern neighbor Afghanistan has significantly reduced the volume of water entering Iranian territories in Sistan-Baluchestan Province.

“Over the past year, Afghanistan has blocked the flow of Hirmand water into the country, such that the volume has decreased to 2-3 million cubic meters from 150 mcm,” Ardakanian was quoted as saying by ILNA on Saturday.

Stressing that Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is holding negotiations with Afghan officials, Ardakanian added that Mohammad Javad Zarif has written a formal letter of complaint to the country.

According to the energy minister, Iran received an agreed percentage of the river’s total water based on an accord between the two countries in the past. Reportedly, in 1972, Iran and Afghanistan signed an agreement concerning Hirmand water, which was to the huge disadvantage of Iran and reduced its water right to less than 10%.

“We hope Afghan officials pay more attention to the issue. As the two countries cooperate in other crises, such as security issues, Afghanistan should also collaborate with Iran over water shortage,” he said.

According to Ali Kord, a member of Iranian Parliament, Afghan officials are conducting dam projects on Hirmand River, a transboundary water resource and the Hamoun Wetlands’ main feeder.

“The wetlands are considered a vital resource for the local residents, supplying water for Zahedan. By depriving the country [Iran] of its water rights from Hirmand River, Afghanistan is making things worse for the already water-stressed regions, turning the wetlands into a barren desert,” Zist Online quoted Kord as saying. Suffering from drought for more than a decade, the embattled wetlands are now a source of dust storms, which have worsened their conditions.

Authorities have so far taken a number of measures to save Hamouns, including siphoning water into the wetlands as part of a three-phase project to reduce the intensity of dust and sand storms in the province.

Asked about the dissatisfaction of residents in Yazd, Sistan-Baluchestan, Khuzestan and Hormozgan provinces over the quality of drinking water and if the ministry has any plan to alleviate the problem, Ardakanian washed his hands of this problem.

“The provinces’ water and wastewater companies and their laboratories are managing the water networks and the Energy Ministry cannot directly interfere in such local issues,” he claimed.

Dezful Water Project

The first phase of the water transfer scheme to the southern city of Dezful in Khuzestan Province was inaugurated on Thursday in a ceremony attended by Ardakanian.

Costing 450 billion rials ($10.7 million), the plan includes the construction of water storage tanks with a capacity of 80,000 cubic meters, equipping 16 wells and establishing pumping stations and water treatment facilities.

The plan conducted by Khuzestan’s Water and Electricity Organization is envisaged to transfer water from Dez River to Dezful as well as several nearby towns and 365 villages in the drought-stricken region for drinking purposes.

Dez River, a tributary of Karoun River, is 400 km long. It is a major river in Khuzestan, which originates in the central Zagros Mountain Range and flows into Karoun at about 100 km south of Dezful.

The minister also broke ground on the second phase of the major water project. It starts by laying 16 kilometers of pipelines worth 300 billion rials ($7.15 million) to transfer water to Siah-Mansour and Kouye-Azadegan near Dezful. The second phase is planned for completion within five years at a total cost of 4.15 trillion rials ($98.8 million).

Water treatment facilities, with a capacity of 225,000 cubic meters per day, will also be constructed on Dez River banks.