Industries Testing Yazd Resilience

Industries Testing Yazd Resilience  Industries Testing Yazd Resilience

Located at the meeting point of Iran’s largest deserts — Lut and Kavir, Yazd Province has always had a problem with water, or lack thereof.

The province has been inhabited for almost 5,000 years, meaning the resilient people in this central region are well-adapted to life in the dry province and thrive under pressure, as evidenced by Yazd establishing itself as one of the top five most industrialized provinces.

But industrialization has come at a high cost. The province is dotted with water-intensive industries, namely steel producers, which have been guzzling Yazd’s small water reserves for years.

By some estimates, about 85% of villages in the province have been deserted as a result of the dire impact of these industries on the dwindling water reserves.

To address the problem, provincial officials have proposed transferring water from the Persian Gulf in the south to meet the growing demand, a scheme that environmental experts believe is doomed.

“Similar plans in the past have all fallen short of expectations, and the latest proposal is not well thought out, especially when it comes to the environmental impact,” Parviz Kardovani, a prominent academic and eremologist (the study of deserts), told YJC.

He said the plan apparently has not accounted the financial and environmental costs of desalinating the water, adding that the architects of the scheme “have no idea what to do with the mountains of salt once the water is desalinated.”

The environmentalist pointed to the transfer of water from Kouhrang to Yazd which helped temporarily alleviate water stress but ultimately exacerbated the problem as later studies showed groundwater reserves had significantly depleted.

  Unsustainable Development

Furthermore, the general consensus is that transferring water from the Persian Gulf will mostly benefit the steel industry rather than ordinary residents and farmers.

Recent comments by Muhammad Reza Alamdari, director of the provincial office of the Ministry of Industries, Mines and Trade, who claimed that developing the province’s steel industry is crucial to the country’s goal of becoming the seventh largest steel producer in the world by 2025, further fueled speculations and stronger opposition to the planned water transfer.

“Experience shows that transferred water is rarely distributed fairly among different sectors, despite the proponents of the scheme claiming otherwise,” Kardovani said.

He complained that Yazd officials “are only thinking about industrializing the province” without taking a moment to consider the implications of unsustainable development. They want to “develop industries come what may.”

“We’re not saying industrialization must stop at the behest of the environment; we’re pushing for sustainable development,” he said, adding that it is “only in Iran” that one sees water-intensive industries in parched lands such as Yazd, Isfahan and Kerman.

“These types of industries should be built in the coastal regions with ample access to seawater. If the officials really care about life in Yazd, they need to move toward less water- intensive industries to meet their industrialization goals,” Kardovani said, calling for an overhaul of macro industrial policies, namely those related to and dependent on water like the expansion of petrochemical and steel plants.

The provincial capital Yazd is believed to be the hottest city north of the Persian Gulf and is Iran’s driest metropolis, receiving a meager annual rainfall of 60 millimeters. Prior to the advent of the industrialization era a few decades ago, the residents of the parched province relied heavily on qanats to meet their daily water needs.

An engineering feat, qanats are underground water channels with a series of vertical access shafts used to transport water from an aquifer under a hill. The technology was developed by Persians in the 1st millennium BC to create a reliable water supply for their settlements in hot and arid regions with limited access to water.