Exploring Causes of Water Crisis

International Desk
Exploring Causes of Water Crisis
Exploring Causes of Water Crisis

A series of meetings are held regularly at the House of Humanities Thinkers called ‘Water, Culture, and Society’ to help address the worsening water problem as it continues to adversely impact life, with the worst still to come. On Tuesday, May 5, the fifth session took place.

The series is organized courtesy of collaboration between Iran Sociology Association, Water Crisis Management - a prominent think tank - the Iranian Association of Cultural Studies and Communication, and private academic centers that work with the Center for Strategic Studies at the presidential office.

The experts attending the seminar emphasized that the meetings are not aimed at exploring workable solutions to the problem, but to examine and weigh various aspects of the problems and identify the causes to pave the way for further studies and discussions, in order to implement necessary changes in water policies.

The 5th session focused on the importance and impact of social values, norms, traditions, and social capital in managing water crisis, and the role of water management through both government policies and public traditions and tried-and-tested methods.

Hosted by Gholamreza Ghaffari, a social science professor at the University of Tehran, discussions were held by Hossein Imani, Ahmad Firouzabadi, both lecturers at the University of Tehran’s Department of Sociology, and Mohsen Renani, an economics professor at the University of Isfahan.

  Interwoven With Culture

Imani started off in a poetic manner, exploring the value Iranians have historically placed on water linguistically. He pointed out that in the Persian language the word which describes prosperity – ‘Aabad’ - includes the prefix ‘aab-’ which means ‘water’ in Persian.

Archaeological studies indicate Persian civilizations began to prosper immensely after the development Qanat, a water transfer system. In fact, the arid Iranian plateau became habitable thanks to this technology.

He took stock of the country’s severe water shortage and spoke about ‘water refugees’ - people forced to move due to lack of water - in the southeastern provinces.

Imani categorized the country’s water problem into two levels.

In the first level lie policies that affect water use. A major problem in this level is that the process of policymaking has never been completely open to criticism by experts, academics, social activists, and other qualified individuals. Allowing experts to brainstorm and critique policies before they go into effect can prove helpful.

In the second level the issue is impacted by bureaucracy, as the government  normally does not fully cooperate, and overlap of responsibilities in many cases create more problems than they solve.

Ahmad Firouzabadi continued the discussion, mentioning the strong presence of water in Iranian cultures, and even religious beliefs before and after the advent of Islam. He stressed that water has always been considered sacred and has been treated with respect.  He pointed to Iranian rituals and traditions involving water which signify the ever important role of the natural resource in the lives of Iranians.

He proceeded to speak about the socio-legal aspect of water, saying that access to clean water is an absolute, in the same vein as air and security. This, he concluded, is another reason behind the misuse and abuse of water in Iran.

Promoting proper water use and teaching it to the younger generation can help prevent future misuse and mismanagement, he said.

“Families, schools, and mass media all have to bear the responsibility of educating the young.”

  Ineffective Policies

Renani, contrary to his peers focused on water management policies of the government.

He considered attributing the main responsibility of the crisis to the people a wrong approach and emphasized that for over 3000 years Iranians had effective water management and transfer methods as they had to always deal with the shortage of water in the Iranian plateau. “Over 90% of water resources are wasted in agriculture and industry and even by reducing the household consumption to half it would only save 4%,” said the economist.

Renani blamed the worsening water crisis to the ineffective policies during the past years and noted that changing policies and behavior on a foundational level requires hundreds of years.

“It will take dozens of years to implement effective policies.”

He stressed that in order to build trust between the government and the general public, the government first needs to admit the inefficiency of water policies, and then provide the opportunity for experts and the public to help address the issue by offering workable solutions.