Neighbors Worsening Iran's Water Shortage
EghtesadOnline: Neighboring states' operations to control transboundary waters—the shared aquifers, lakes and river basins—have exacerbated the severe water shortage in Iran, a former member of World Water Council said.
"Aggressive policies adopted by states like Turkey and Afghanistan which deplete and degrade water supplies and river outflows to their neighboring countries have adversely affected the ecosystem in the whole region, especially Iran, that is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and where water is already scarce," Abbasqoli Jahani was also quoted as saying by ILNA.
According to the official, it has been a long time that Turkey, without compromising with Iran, has embarked on dam construction ventures on rivers carrying transboundary waters, leading to a meaningful reduction of water level not only in Houralazim wetlands but also in Arvand River, both located in the southwestern Khuzestan Province.
"Frequent dust storms in recent years in southern areas can be directly ascribed to the unilateral action of Turkey regarding the share of water resources," Jahani said, adding that the crisis will aggravate as the country has inaugurated another new dam that can store as much as 20 billion cubic meters of water, Financial Tribune reported.
The official noted that he had warned Iranian officials about the ongoing crisis in 1990s, yet they turned a deaf ear to the warnings and made no efforts for finding novel solutions via water diplomacy.
Water experts believe that settling the key issue requires a supranational, integrated approach to cross-border water resource management based on legal and institutional frameworks and shared benefits and costs.
Iran has already suffered losses due to the lack of political dialogue on water. The most significant are ecological damages resulting from Turkey's large-scale damming project.
Jahani emphasized that transboundary waters support the lives and livelihoods of vast numbers of people across the world. In an era of increasing water stress, how these critical resources are managed is vital to promoting peaceful cooperation and sustainable development.
"Afghanistan has also totally neglected Iran's share of Hamoun River, as the river's outflow to Iran is next to zero," he said.
"In 1972, Iran and Afghanistan signed an agreement on Hirmand waters, which was to the huge disadvantage of Iran and reduced its water right to less than 10%," he said, adding that Afghanistan is still building dams over waters that flow into the country.
Jahani noted that although Turkey and Afghanistan have exacerbated the water tension in Iran, not all the blame can be pinned on them as policymakers have made strategic mistakes in the development of the country.
--- Skillful Diplomacy
According to Mohammad Hossein Papoli-Yazdi, the head of the Iranian Association of Geopolitics, Iran can ensure peace over the issue of water by conducting a skillful diplomacy.
A department within the Energy Ministry deals with cross-border rivers, but Papoli-Yazdi called for the launch of a department in the Foreign Ministry to dispatch water counselors to neighboring states for negotiations.
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, a section in the ministry's Legal and International Affairs Department is now in charge of water diplomacy.
Papoli-Yazdi also suggests that Iran purchase water springs in other countries for future use.
"This investment in water will benefit Iran," he said.
His other proposed solution was the ambitious idea of directing communities to settle near waterways to exert more control over shared waters.