Remembering Rivers

Remembering RiversRemembering Rivers

March 14, 2015 marks the 18th annual International Day of Action for Rivers. It is the time when people celebrate victories such as dam removal and raise their voice to demand improvement in the policies and practices which lead to the demise of rivers.

Iranians are aware of the pain of unrestrained dam construction. Over decades dams were built that reduced downstream water flow to the point that farming and fishing activities in the affected areas have become nigh impossible. Dams, which were not even filled to half their capacity, have hardly generated the amount of electricity which was touted.  Dams have guzzled trillions of rials and flooded countless villages displacing thousands of people, destroyed cultural heritage and dried water bodies causing a cascade of environmental disasters. Iran is located in one of the most arid regions of the planet, exposing it to the full force of climate change and global warming. To check the colossal damage,  there is an urgent need for modern water management techniques and meaningful conservation. Minus this and the nation of 80 million runs the immense risk of reaching the point of no return – more droughts and irreversible water crises.

Iran, which is the third leading country in dam construction globally, boasts a number of environmentally conscious activists who regularly voice concern over the mismanagement of water resources and the high likelihood of graft when it comes to the sensitive issue of digging illegal wells across the county.  Informed sources claim almost 10,000 illegal wells have so far been identified.

Whereas in the past opponents of dam building were barely heard, they have now found voice in the form of top water officials who use their position to push for efficient management and raising awareness. Iran’s few positive steps in the recent past include blocking damming projects around the crisis-hit Lake Urmia and opening levees to replenish the Hoor al-Azim wetland.

Several conferences organized by environmentalists and relevant organizations have been held in recent months to spread awareness and draw the attention of the general public and authorities to the serious environmental hazards, which according to one senior official could render the country “uninhabitable.”