EghtesadOnline: From Iran’s total area of 165 million hectares, 50 million hectares are arable, provided there is enough water.
However, in view of the severe water crisis facing the country, only 18.5 million hectares of land (37% of arable land) have gone under the cultivation of different crops, the head of Iranian Soil Science Association said.
“Close to 8.5 million hectares of the total land under cultivation are irrigated and the rest are rain-fed. Due to the water shortage, nearly 32 million hectares of arable land are not cultivated,” Manouchehr Gorji was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
The official added that soil erosion in Iran amounts to 16 tons per hectare, which is way above the global average of 6 tons per hectare, according to Financial Tribune.
Gorji noted that farmers need to be trained in how to treat the soil, what to plant, how to plant them, how to use fertilizers and pesticides and how to carry out the harvest process so that the soil is not damaged.
Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati has announced that amid low precipitation and water shortage, the government will place restrictions on the cultivation of crops in areas where underground water resources have dipped to alarming levels.
“In other areas such as Khuzestan and Mazandaran provinces, farmers can use low-depth wells to deal with the situation for the time being,” he said.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said water shortage will negatively impact the spring cultivation of agricultural products.
Delavar Heydarpour, the head of Mazandaran Agricultural Jihad Organization, said there are serious concerns regarding problems facing farmers during rice plantation.
Heydarpour added that water reserves behind the province’s dams have decreased by an average of 40% since the beginning of the current year compared with the similar period of last year.
Director of Iran Water Industry Federation Abdolreza Foroughi said although water scarcity is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing Iran, inefficient management of the valuable resource is largely to blame for a crisis that has emerged over the years.
“The revenue earned from the sale and export of many types of crops does not equal the value of water used for their irrigation,” he said.
Reportedly, about 92% of the country’s water resources are used up by unsustainable and wasteful farming practices.
The country’s nearly two-decade struggle with drought, combined with high consumption and waste, has caused renewable water resources to drop under 120 billion cubic meters. However, by some accounts, that figure is closer to 88 bcm.
Located in one of the world’s most water-stressed regions, Iran’s average precipitation rate has been lower than the global average for at least 10 years. Some 37 million Iranians are said to be living in water-stressed regions.