Iran's Energy Ministry Outlines Plan to Tackle Water Woes
Iran's Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said the government is determined to tackle the country's aggravated water scarcity and drought in an overarching program under the sixth five-year development plan (2016-21).
"We have plans to restore balance to surface and underground water resources, deploy measurement and control systems in the water network, expand water purification facilities, filter out nitrate and heavy metals, and recycle wastewaters," he added.
Chitchian made the remarks on Sunday at the opening of the four-day 12th International Water and Wastewater Exhibition of Iran, which is hosting some 450 foreign companies.
"The Energy Ministry has presented the plan to the parliament for approval," he said.
However, Chitchian did not elaborate on the cost and schedule for implementing the ambitious plan.
Nitrate is a common contaminant found in wells. Too much nitrate in drinking water can cause serious health problems, especially for infants.
In 2013, at a time of heightened tension between Iran and the West over the dispute on Tehran's nuclear program, Issa Kalantari, former Iranian minister of agriculture, underlined that water crisis is the biggest problem threatening the state, stressing that the exacerbating issue had been overshadowed by political upheavals.
According to reports, Iran has exhausted more than 80% of its renewable water resources, compounding a severe drought over the past two decades amid critically low levels of rainfall and rising temperature.
Around 33 billion cubic meters of groundwater are replenished annually, but the country siphons off 58 billion cubic meters.
A 2013 study by the World Resources Institute ranked Iran as the world’s 24th most water-stressed nation, putting it at an extremely high risk of facing water scarcity.
According to reports, Iran is weighing options for supplying water to some of its arid regions, including a plan to deliver the dwindling resource from the Caspian Sea in the north to the drought-ridden Semnan Province.
However, some environmentalists say the controversial project could lead to large-scale deforestation, not to mention the astronomical financial costs.
------- Water Services Export
Chitchian boasted that the water and wastewater sector is an increasingly important source of revenue for Iran, as the country's oil-dependent economy is trying to adjust to low crude prices.
"Iran exports technical and engineering services in the water and wastewater sector to more than 40 countries. We are currently developing water projects overseas worth $3 billion," he said.
According to published reports, the export of water-related services accounts for 90% of Iran's total technical and engineering services exports per year.
The export of engineering and technical services is forecast to reach $5 billion in the current Iranian year that ends in March 2017. Officials say there is potential to boost exports to $25 billion in the long run.
Iran has opened its gates to international investors following the lifting of some financial and trade sanctions in January that had undermined its economy over the past several years.
In a statement on Sunday, Rahim Meidani, the deputy energy minister, said Iran is ready to conduct business with US-based firms in the water and wastewater projects.
"According to a recent speech by president (Hassan Rouhani), Iran has no restriction on collaborating with foreign companies, including American firms, under legal frameworks," he said.
"The precondition is agreement with the existing investment laws."
Meidani said a number of American companies participated in Tehran's water exhibition, without specifying whether they attended directly or through representatives.