Budget for watershed management seen to jump fourfold

December 16, 2021
finance & economy

TEHRAN- The national budget bill for the next Iranian calendar year 1401, which starts on March 21, 2022, has allocated 16 trillion rials (about $53 million), which is nearly fourfold of the budget for the current year.

According to the bill, a plan has been prepared with the aim of implementing soil protection, watershed management projects with the theme of which include projects around Lake Urmia and a number of dams across the country, ISNA reported.

Annual floods bring Iran an average loss of 25 trillion rials (about $83 million), Masoud Mansour, head of the Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Organization (FRWO) has announced.

On average, 25 floods occur annually in Iran, ISNA quoted Mansour as saying.

With the implementation of watershed management projects, 9 tons per hectare of water erosion has been reduced annually, and in mountainous areas, 570 cubic meters of water has been extracted per hectare, he noted.

Moreover, some 1000 cubic meters of water per hectare is stored in underground aquifers and prevents the entry of 4 cubic meters of sediment behind the dams, he added.

Watershed management saves 3,800 qanats

In recent years, 3,800 qanats have been rehabilitated through watershed and aquifer management, and people who had migrated due to water scarcity have returned to their homes, Mansour said.

The ancient qanat system of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many kilometers, first appeared in Iran, which was then spread to other West Asian countries, China, India, Japan, North Africa, Spain and from there to Latin America.

According to the Ministry of Energy, about 36,300 qanats have been identified in Iran, which has been saturated with water for over 2,000 years.

Qanats can come efficient to contain water scarcity due to relatively low cost, low evaporation rates, and not requiring technical knowledge, moreover, they proved sustainable being used in perpetuity without posing any damages to the environment, despite new water transfer projects, which not only puts the environment in danger but brings the country heavy economic burden.

Threat of subsidence

Alireza Shahidi, head of the Geological Survey and Mineral Explorations Organization (GSI), has recently warned that the amount of water that penetrates into the ground is not proportional to the amount of water extracted, warning that this has caused the phenomenon of subsidence in all parts of the country except for the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran.

The country has the highest withdrawal of aquifers compared to other countries in the world, and as a result, the average rate of land subsidence in Iran reaches up to 25 cm per year.

In fact, this irreparable phenomenon intensifies the damage of other natural incidents such as earthquakes or floods, destroys cultural and ancient monuments, destroys agriculture, affects urban and rural areas, and destroys roads and transportation systems.

In addition to environmental consequences, subsidence also has economic, social, and cultural damage. Loss of land means loss of food security, production, and increased migration.

Out of 606 plains in the country, more than 300 are in acute condition and are forbidden to enter due to continued drought, declining rainfall, and uncontrolled abstraction of groundwater in recent decades.

Alireza Shahidi, head of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration has said 80 percent of the groundwater is withdrawn annually in Iran, which outpacing the global rate.

In the whole world, water resources withdrawal is between 3 to 20 percent, and when it reaches 40 to 60 percent which is considered problematic, and it will be a crisis when exceeding 60-80 percent, Shahidi noted.


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