People, Environment

Caspian Water Diversion Implausible

Caspian Water Diversion ImplausibleCaspian Water Diversion Implausible

According to Iran’s Water and Power Resources Development Company, the plan to transfer water from the Caspian Sea to the drought-hit Semnan Province and Lake Urmia has little chance of approval.  

Muhammad Reza Rezazadeh, the managing director of the company, said that the heavy environmental impact of the project must be assessed in detail before any decisions are made.

Pointing to challenges facing the transfer of water from the Caspian Sea in the north to the central Iranian plateau and Lake Urmia, he said, “The plan’s feasibility study is underway”, Mehr News Agency reported.

“The study will be completed in a few months and decisions will be made once foreign consultants submit their reports,” said Rezazadeh, adding that he does not expect the project to go through because it does not seem to be environmentally feasible or justified.

The plan seeks to transfer water via a 180-kilometer pipeline to Semnan and also to Urmia Lake. The Department of Environment has frequently voiced opposition to the scheme, maintaining that it is simply not environmentally acceptable and there are more feasible alternatives.

 Tackling Root Causes

DOE chief Massoumeh Ebtekar had earlier said: “The (water) problem will not be solved just by transferring water from one place to another unless the root causes are addressed”.

A Majlis agricultural commission member has also said that with efficient water management, “we don’t need to transfer water from the Caspian Sea to the central plateau.”

Water experts have repeatedly called for policy reforms and advanced farming practices to tackle Iran’s huge and worsening water shortages that have taken the form of a major crisis in recent years. Most observers and senior officials are on record as having said that the root cause of the nationwide problem is mismanagement and waste, and not shortage of the precious resource.  

Rain water harvesting, judicious water use (especially in the agro sector), promoting modern  irrigation technics, recycling wastewater, separating potable water from wastewater and implementation of watershed plans are among measures suggested by experts to help conserve water.

For years environmentalists, social scientists and the cross-section of academia and media have appealed to the masses to cut water consumption. Apparently the calls have fallen on deaf ears and during summers the government has been compelled to introduce water rationing in some parts of the country. Water has been supplied to many rural areas in the recent past via trucks and at obviously high cost to the treasury.

There is a strong consensus that if water consumption patterns don’t change in the near future, many parts of the country would turn dry and barren desert while entire towns and villages will be totally empty of residents.  

Iran’s Water and Power Resources Development Company, the highest-ranking government entity in charge of dam construction and water transfer projects, has also come under criticism for its policy and management.