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Because the ending touches are placed on Iran’s newest main dam undertaking, environmentalists and archaeologists are warning that it might spell the tip 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 undertaking, warning that it’s going to flip agricultural lands right into a salty wasteland and flood newly found archaeological websites.

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

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

The large dam and adjoining hydroelectric plant, financed by a high-interest, $244 million mortgage from China, has been erected on the western fringe of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, and can minimize off downriver Khuzestan from the pure movement of the already pressured 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 strategy 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 in depth mattress of gypsum and salt generally known as the Gachsaran Formation, shouldn’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 positioned simply 250 kilometers northwest of the Chamshir undertaking, was located subsequent to a big salt dome. Regardless of warnings, the undertaking went forward and in the end left the authorities coping with a brine-filled reservoir.

And in 2021, indignant protesters who took to the streets of Khuzestan and neighboring Isfahan Province pointed to the Chadegan Dam, positioned 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 world surrounding the Chamshir undertaking 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 turn into a reservoir, 124 of them newly found. However with valuable little time to excavate the websites, archaeologists concern that very important items of the nation’s historical past will quickly be drowned and that modern-day nomads can be pressured out.

For his or her half, environmentalists have strongly objected to the undertaking, 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 affect research might be carried out.

The dam’s operators have downplayed the criticism and pressured the significance of pooling valuable water provides. They’ve additionally argued that considerations about excessive salinity are unfounded as a result of salt deposits are buried a whole bunch 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 can be crammed 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 carried out little to assuage critics’ considerations, as evidenced by movies, petitions, and open letters penned by researchers and environmental authorities.

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

“Your dam was so salty that it was revealed after solely two days of visits,” Akhani wrote in feedback to a video he posted displaying useless and broken timber. “You possibly can proceed to trick ignorant officers with false claims, however the fact does not conceal.”

Extra lately, college professors and environmental specialists have pushed again with a petition signed by greater than 23,000 individuals declaring the Chamshir Dam a “hazard,” resulting from 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 movement of winter flood waters will disrupt the pure strategy of desalination and soil fertilization, and can create a mud bowl.

Different lecturers have listed different negatives, together with the disruption of nomadic life, the dependence on Chinese language funding, the lack of belief within the authorities, and the continuation of a flawed “American” thought of progress that started with large-scale growth tasks many years 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 considerations. Hajikazem mentioned that analysis relating to the undertaking was “open to everybody” and that lecturers who took his workplace up on its supply to review it got here away satisfied that the dam poses no risk.

“It’s not my accountability to resolve 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 de facto crucial.”

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