Iran’s reservoirs are only 40 percent complete according to official figures, and nine cities which includes the capital Tehran are threatened with water restrictions after dry winter.
Several major bodies of water in the region have all but dried up, including the Zayanderud River and Orumiyeh Lake.
Lake Orumiyeh, a close to 145-kilometre-long (90-mile), 48-kilometre wide salt lake close to Iran’s northwest border with Turkey, is just about empty.
In the city of Isfahan, an ancient jewel extended dubbed “half the planet” for its wonderful palaces, boulevards, bridges and mosques, the Zayanderud river that runs via it is often bone dry.
The water that disappeared – a result largely of mismanagement and overuse rather than drought – is stored at the Zayandeh Roud dam and diverted for domestic and industrial consumption, leaving the city’s 11 river bridges standing as symbols of what is missing.
The damage in Isfahan province has been substantial. Analysts say tens of thousands of hectares of farmland have turned to desert. More than 500m trees have died over the past four years and land has subsided – a byproduct of draining groundwater supplies – in some areas by as much as one metre, threatening the city’s historical sites.
Some regime officials have admitted that “mismanagement has been far more damaging than drought.” Aliahmad Keikha, deputy head of the state-run department of environment for natural environment and biodiversity told Financial Times. “We could cope with drought if there was a more efficient management.”
But Isfahan’s plight is just one example of water crisis in Iran.
The dilemma is extra critical in Sistan-Baluchistan where a Sunni minority is centred in towns and villages that border Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Only 15 years ago, Hamoun was the seventh largest wetland in the planet, straddling 4,000 square kilometres (1,600 square miles) involving Iran and Afghanistan, with water rolling in from the latter’s Helmand river.
Issa Kalantari, a former agriculture minister in the 1990s said last year: “Iran, with 7,000 years of history, will not be liveable in 20 years’ time if the rapid and exponential destruction of groundwater resources continues,” he warns, adding that the shortages pose a bigger threat to Iran than its nuclear crisis.”
Source: AFP, Financial times