People, Environment

Water Transfer Plan Not Final

Water Transfer Plan Not FinalWater Transfer Plan Not Final

The highly contentious issue of transferring water from the Caspian Sea through Mazandaran Province to Semnan Province is not final yet, as feasibility studies are still being conducted on the project.

In an effort to help ease tensions between the supporters and opponents of the scheme, Rabi’ Fallah Jelodar, the governor-general of Mazandaran, told Mehr News Agency that “the project is still in an early phase and will not begin before a thorough environmental evaluation is conducted.”

Highlighting the administration’s commitment to environmental conservation, the official said the previous government had already started the controversial project when the current administration took charge in 2013 and suspended work.

“I assure you, the [President Hassan] Rouhani government will not approve this project before reviewing its environmental impact,” Jelodar stressed.

The scheme aims to address Semnan’s water woes by supplying the drought-hit province’s demand with water from the Caspian Sea in the north. Critics have long argued that pumping water from the sea will eventually lead to an increase in the Caspian Sea’s salinity, endangering the countless habitats it supports.

They also say that construction of a 150-kilometer pipeline to divert water to Semnan in north central Iran would run through the Hyrcanian Forests, necessitating the need to cut down trees in the ecologically-rich woodlands.

Critics say there are more feasible, better and lasting solutions to the province’s water problems. Some experts argue that given the small population of the province (600,000) the issue of water shortage in Semnan is simply irrelevant and there are “geo-political factors” behind the push for constructing the expensive pipeline.

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

For years environmentalists, social scientists and the cross-section of academia and media have appealed to the masses to cut water consumption and called on officials to undertake meaningful reforms, to no avail.

There is a strong consensus that if water consumption patterns do not change in the near future, many parts of the country will turn into barren desert while entire towns and villages will be uninhabitable.