Fate of Karaj River Sealed

Fate of Karaj River SealedFate of Karaj River Sealed

Anyone who has driven on the long, winding road that connects Karaj in Alborz Province to Chalous in Mazandaran will attest to the fact that Karaj River is the most attractive feature of the verdant, mountainous road.

However, because of a controversial scheme first proposed a decade ago, nearly 30 kilometers of the scenic river will be dried up.

Originating in the central Alborz mountain range, the river flows south past Karaj before turning east in southern Tehran Province and flowing into Namak Lake in Qom Province.

Amir Kabir Dam was constructed in the late 1950s near the headwaters of the river to supply tap water for residents of Tehran and irrigation water for Karaj farms.

In 2006, the Energy Ministry said it was planning to commission the construction of an underground pipeline from the dam to Tehran, which drew widespread criticism from water and environmental experts, as the scheme lacked feasibility studies and warned that it would lead to the total desiccation of around 30 kilometers of the river’s length.

Energy officials claimed that the plan was necessary because the lack of a wastewater network in the region (Karaj-Chalous road) had resulted in household waste flowing freely into the river.

However, as environmentalists pointed out at the time, the argument is flawed, for the ministry could spend far less money to develop the region’s sewerage network, which is both necessary and financially feasible—instead of devising a harebrained scheme to transfer water to Tehran in a move that is both costly and environmentally harmful.

What makes the plan even more ludicrous is that the river’s water is already redirected to the Iranian capital. The water of Karaj River is treated in a facility in Bilqan (about 4 kilometers east of Karaj before Amir Kabir Dam) which is then transferred to Tehran.

  Imminent Demise

As activists were turning up the heat on officials to shelve the plan, one environmental disaster after another occurred. From the desiccation of Urmia Lake in the northwest to the transfer of water from Karoun River in the southeast to provinces and the drying up of Zayandehroud River in central Iran, it became nigh impossible to focus on every issue.

Fast forward 10 years and now, according to the Alborz Regional Water Authority, implementation of the controversial scheme to transfer water from the river to Tehran is only delayed by the construction of water treatment facilities in the sprawling capital.

“We’re ready to execute the plan and are only waiting for the treatment facilities to be set up,” Behzad Parsa, chief executive of ARWA, told Mehr News Agency on Tuesday.

Even Alborz Governor-General Seyyed Hamid Tahaei pleaded with environment officials and specifically Massoumeh Ebtekar, head of the Department of Environment, to help scrap the scheme, to no avail.

In response, Ebtekar has said that her department has received assurances that “the river’s water rights will be upheld”.

Nevertheless, given the poor environmental record of similar schemes in Iran, the silent demise of the iconic Karaj River seems imminent.