Because the ending touches are placed on Iran’s newest main dam mission, environmentalists and archaeologists are warning that it may 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 large hydropower enterprise, is ready to go on stream in March. However because the clock winds down, critics are making a determined bid to cease the mission, 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 occasions diminished 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 indignant protests in Khuzestan.
The large dam and adjoining hydroelectric plant, financed by means of a high-interest, $244 million mortgage from China, has been erected on the western fringe of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, and can lower off downriver Khuzestan from the pure circulate 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 bought it as a approach to quench farmers’ thirst for reliable water provides to spice up agricultural output.
However residents of the area, which sits on an in depth mattress of gypsum and salt often 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 Nineties and positioned simply 250 kilometers northwest of the Chamshir mission, was located subsequent to a big salt dome. Regardless of warnings, the mission went forward and finally 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 mission because the Sassanid Empire, the final Persian imperial dynasty earlier than the Muslim conquest of the mid-seventh century.
Greater than 140 historical websites from the Sassanid and Islamic eras lie within the basin destined to turn out to be a reservoir, 124 of them newly found. However with treasured little time to excavate the websites, archaeologists concern that important items of the nation’s historical past will quickly be drowned and that modern-day nomads will likely be compelled out.
For his or her half, environmentalists have strongly objected to the mission, saying that other than salt deposits the reservoir can be set on capped oil wells. They’ve referred to as for it to be halted instantly till additional influence research may be carried out.
The dam’s operators have downplayed the criticism and harassed the significance of pooling treasured 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 will likely 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.
Research In Open Opposition
However these arguments have achieved 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 indicate that top salinity had already taken its toll on flowers close to the brand new dam mission.
“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 useless and broken timber. “You possibly can proceed to trick ignorant officers with false claims, however the fact would not cover.”
Extra just lately, college professors and environmental consultants 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 circulate of winter flood waters will disrupt the pure means 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 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 considerations. Hajikazem mentioned that analysis concerning the mission was “open to everybody” and that lecturers who took his workplace up on its provide to check it got here away satisfied that the dam poses no menace.
“It isn’t my accountability to resolve whether or not to cease [the project],” Hajikazem mentioned, accusing critics of merely being in opposition to the development of dams below any circumstances. “However as a patriotic Iranian, I say that this dam is de facto obligatory.”