People, Travel

Think Tank Derides Water Transfer Project

Think Tank Derides Water Transfer ProjectThink Tank Derides Water Transfer Project

The project to transfer water from the Persian Gulf in the south to Kerman and Yazd provinces in central Iran threatens cultural and historical sites, with reports suggesting that the work has already inflicted damage on some sites.

The project is aimed at meeting the ever-increasing demand of water-intensive industries in the two provinces (supporters claim it is meant to address widespread drought in the region). According to an official at the Research Institute of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism, work on the controversial scheme began before approval from Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, which manages RICHT.

“Local sources tell us that the project has damaged some structures of historical significance in Hormozgan and Kerman,” Alireza Sardari, chief rescue archeologist at RICHT, told ISNA.

The project, which aims to transfer water from the Persian Gulf through Hormozgan Province to Kerman and Yazd, is a 750-km pipeline to be laid in a tunnel 30 meters wide. The project is funded by the Persian Gulf Water Supply Company (WASCO).

According to law, large-scale construction projects must receive approval from the ICHHTO in order to protect historical sites and, if necessary, conduct rescue archeology, which is the collection of archaeological data and materials from a site in danger of imminent destruction.

WASCO approached ICHHTO in January 2013 to begin proceedings to receive the necessary permits. The ICHHTO tasked RICHT to make a thorough assessment of the project, but the latter said it needed the blueprints of the project before it could begin evaluation.

The company complied and provided RICHT with everything they needed by April 2014. Shortly after, the institute drew up a contract and sent it to WASCO.

“[It’s been two years and] we have yet to hear back from them,” Sardari said.

WASCO cited financial constraints for the reluctance to sign the contract, and in May 2015 the company began proceedings once more to acquire the permits but did not follow up.

In January, it was announced that work on the project had begun apparently without the necessary permits from the ICHHTO.

“When stakeholders talk about large-scale projects, they tout their commitment to environmental regulations and completely ignore the impact of their schemes on cultural and historical heritage sites,” Sardari complained.

While that may be true, many such projects in Iran fail to comply with environmental laws, neither are they environmentally friendly nor justified. Critics of the Persian Gulf water transfer project argue that it will mostly benefit the steel industry rather than ordinary residents and farmers.  

In recent months respected economists have openly challenged former and present policymakers and governments for building the huge steel plants far away from the seas and have said that the mills will have to close down simply because they are too water intensive and economically unsustainable.