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Because the ending touches are placed on Iran’s newest main dam venture, environmentalists and archaeologists are warning that it might spell the top for an space within the nation’s southwest fed by the diminishing waters of the Zohreh River.

The Chamshir Dam, the nation’s newest huge hydropower enterprise, is about to go on stream in March. However because the clock winds down, critics are making a determined bid to cease the venture, warning that it’ll flip agricultural lands right into a salty wasteland and flood newly found archaeological websites.

The Zohreh River, which can fill the dam’s reservoir, is just not what it was within the Sixties, when authorities first had designs to harness its energy to supply electrical energy and increase irrigation in impoverished Khuzestan Province and different areas of southwestern Iran.

In recent times, seasonal droughts have at instances lowered the brackish waters of the river to a trickle because it winds its approach to the Persian Gulf, endangering flood-dependent flora and wildlife and contributing to water shortages which have sparked offended protests in Khuzestan.

The large dam and adjoining hydroelectric plant, financed via a high-interest, $244 million mortgage from China, has been erected on the western fringe of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, and can reduce off downriver Khuzestan from the pure move of the already harassed Zohreh River to fill its reservoir.

The dam’s operator has mentioned that the reservoir will maintain 2.3 billion cubic meters of water and generate 482 megawatts of hydroelectric energy a yr, whereas the authorities have offered it as a approach to quench farmers’ thirst for reliable water provides to spice up agricultural output.

Will Chamshir Dam be one other grand catastrophe?

However residents of the area, which sits on an intensive mattress of gypsum and salt generally known as the Gachsaran Formation, wouldn’t have to look far to see the destruction wrought by the federal government’s earlier failures to handle scarce water provides regardless of grand guarantees.

The Gotvand Dam, constructed within the Nineteen Nineties and situated simply 250 kilometers northwest of the Chamshir venture, was located subsequent to a big salt dome. Regardless of warnings, the venture went forward and in the end left the authorities coping with a brine-filled reservoir.

And in 2021, offended protesters who took to the streets of Khuzestan and neighboring Isfahan Province pointed to the Chadegan Dam, situated 250 kilometers north of the Chamshir Dam, and different large-scale tasks from the Nineteen Seventies because the supply of their water woes.

WATCH: Water shortages within the Iranian province of Isfahan led to mass protests in November 2021 and a brutal authorities response. Farmers within the province say the scenario nonetheless has not improved and accuse officers of gross mismanagement.

Flood Of Criticism

Nomads have roamed the realm surrounding the Chamshir venture for the reason that Sassanid Empire, the final Persian imperial dynasty earlier than the Muslim conquest of the mid-seventh century.

Greater than 140 historic websites from the Sassanid and Islamic eras lie within the basin destined to change into a reservoir, 124 of them newly found. However with treasured little time to excavate the websites, archaeologists worry that important items of the nation’s historical past will quickly be drowned and that modern-day nomads shall be compelled out.

For his or her half, environmentalists have strongly objected to the venture, saying that apart from salt deposits the reservoir can also be set on capped oil wells. They’ve known as for it to be halted instantly till additional influence research might be performed.

The dam’s operators have downplayed the criticism and harassed the significance of pooling treasured water provides. They’ve additionally argued that issues about excessive salinity are unfounded as a result of salt deposits are buried a whole lot of meters beneath the floor.

Mahmud Muharniya, the dam’s supervisor, mentioned in a December press convention that “there isn’t any proof of the presence of salt on the floor” and that comparisons to different controversial tasks are misguided. Muharniya additionally mentioned that the reservoir shall be stuffed with waters from the winter flood season, which he mentioned lessens the salinity of the Zohreh River and can present higher-quality water.

Examine In Open Opposition

However these arguments have finished little to assuage critics’ issues, as evidenced by movies, petitions, and open letters penned by researchers and environmental authorities.

Hossein Akhani, a distinguished botanist who has studied Iran’s salt-imbued landscapes for many years, took to Instagram as early as 2021 to indicate that top salinity had already taken its toll on flora close to the brand new dam venture.

“Your dam was so salty that it was revealed after solely two days of visits,” Akhani wrote in feedback to a video he posted exhibiting lifeless and broken bushes. “You may proceed to trick ignorant officers with false claims, however the reality would not conceal.”

Extra not too long ago, college professors and environmental consultants have pushed again with a petition signed by greater than 23,000 folks declaring the Chamshir Dam a “hazard,” attributable to faults within the reservoir mattress and the existence of 11 oil wells in and across the reservoir. The authors of the petition, together with Akhani, additionally mentioned that halting the move of winter flood waters will disrupt the pure technique of desalination and soil fertilization, and can create a mud bowl.

Different teachers have listed different negatives, together with the disruption of nomadic existence, the dependence on Chinese language funding, the lack of belief within the authorities, and the continuation of a flawed “American” concept of progress that started with large-scale improvement tasks a long time earlier than the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

In an interview in late December with the Tehran-based Payam-e Ma newspaper, Mehdi Hajikazem, the civil affairs supervisor of Chamshir Dam, dismissed the issues. Hajikazem mentioned that analysis concerning the venture was “open to everybody” and that teachers who took his workplace up on its supply to review it got here away satisfied that the dam poses no menace.

“It isn’t my duty to determine whether or not to cease [the project],” Hajikazem mentioned, accusing critics of merely being towards the development of dams below any circumstances. “However as a patriotic Iranian, I say that this dam is admittedly obligatory.”

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