Water Crisis and Agro, Dam Policy Failures

Iran needs new and workable policies and approaches to overcome the worsening water crisis. Iran needs new and workable policies and approaches to overcome the worsening water crisis.

Almost 90% of Iran’s scarce water resources is consumed in the agriculture sector, Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said, issuing a fresh warning that the country needs a master plan to tackle the worsening water crisis.

 “The efficiency rate in the agriculture sector can and should be raised from 35% to 70%,” Chitchian was quoted as saying by IRNA on Saturday.

Underscoring that the government has taken measures to curb water consumption, especially in the agriculture sector, Chitchian reemphasized the need for a new and effective approach to the seemingly unending water crisis.

According to the official, based on the rainfall levels and geographical conditions, a comprehensive strategic plan of action has been prepared for reviving the water resources nationwide. He did not specify the plans.

“Iran is situated in an arid and semi-arid region and average precipitation rate has been lower than the global average in the past 10 years,” Chitchian said, stressing that due to persistent droughts, unusually high consumption and waste Iran’s renewable water resources have dropped to less than 120 billion cubic meters.

He noted that separating potable from non-potable water and utilizing modern irrigation methods can help alleviate the water shortages that have emerged as a great demographic danger as entire villages and towns are being deserted due to the lack of sustainable water resources.

“Many wetlands, lakes and underground water resources nationwide are drying up,” Chitchian said, stressing that water should be consumed responsibly and preserved for future generations.

“To this end, managing water consumption and enhancing efficiency are among the most important measures.”

The government in August approved to allocate $500 million to implement pressurized irrigation systems to increase the efficiency of water use in the agriculture sector. Plans also call for promoting “drip” irrigation system which is said to help reduce water loss by up to 40% by enabling users to adjust the amount of water needed for irrigation per season.

  Dam Construction

Referring to the need to complete dam projects on hand, Chitchian said that President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has backpedaled on the ill-considered policy of the past four decades to build dams across the country.

He noted that new dam projects “will be allowed only if they pose no environmental hazards.”  In June the Department of Environment refused to issue permits for the construction of four new dams.

Referring to reasons behind the DOE’s opposition, Hamid Jalalvandi, head of the Environmental Evaluation Office, said that due to water shortages in the proposed dams’ catchment areas in recent years, constructing the giant structures is neither necessary nor feasible, Mehr News Agency reported.

The four dams were to be built on Zohreh and Shabliz rivers in Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad Province, Qomchoqay River in Kurdestan Province and Jazman River in Ilam Province. According to the energy minister, dam-building in Iran on a large scale was justified 15 years ago, but not anymore.

Experts say the haphazard and poorly organized dam constructions pose a threat to the environment, desiccating some of the water-rich areas. Iran is the world’s third leading country in dam construction. Over the past 30 years, it has built an average of 20 dams a year to irrigate farms and generate electricity.   


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