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EghtesadOnline: By ignoring the fact that the country's ominous water crisis is rooted in weak diplomatic relations with neighboring states, namely Afghanistan and Iraq, some still think dam construction is crucial to tackle water shortage.

Mehdi Mirzaei, a faculty member at the Islamic Azad University of Tehran, made the statement in an interview with ISNA on Sunday.

"There is no political will to address the problem," he said, criticizing the policies of foreign and energy ministries in dealing with the age-old water dispute with Afghanistan.

Referring to Iran–Turkmenistan Friendship Dam on Hariroud River in central Afghanistan that was constructed heedless of consequences, Mirzaei noted that although the expenses were fully paid by Iran, the stored water behind the dam was to be divided equally between Tehran and Ashgabat, but the latter is pumping more, Financial Tribune reported.

The dam provoked Kabul to build another dam, Afghan-India Friendship Dam, on the same river as it felt its water resources are being plundered and not surprisingly, the water behind the Iran–Turkmenistan Friendship Dam has decreased drastically.

"Iran is unlikely to solve the [looming] crisis without appealing to neighbors for help," he said, stressing that improvement of relations with Afghanistan and Iraq can help overcome the challenge.

The academic noted that water flow to Iran's boundary from Afghanistan and Iraq has declined to as low as 10%, which is very strategic and its depletion will have dire consequences.

He added that Iraq receives 90% of its water inflow from Turkey.

Pointing to his letter to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, he added that if high-ranking officials had held negotiations with Kabul along with other world powers, Iran would not become a "water bankrupt" state.

The concept of being “water bankrupt” is used as a legal term and describes Iran’s present state of water affairs because water withdrawals have significantly exceeded the ability of aquifers, rivers and lakes to recharge and replenish.

According to Mirzaei, speaking of water crisis means clinging to the belief that depleted rivers and wetlands can be fully restored, groundwater resources can be replenished and water scarcity can be resolved while nature is not capable of quickly redressing such conditions. 

"It is regrettable that some still insist that water should be transferred to water-stressed areas through tunnels for use in steel plants," he said, noting that water consumption laws and regulations have never been enforced that is why the number of villas on protected river banks is on the rise all over the country.

The academic further said some have suggested that the problem will be solved if the public reduce their consumption by 20%, which is an absolutely wrong suggestion as it has never worked and washing cars with a water hose is a common scene in big cities.

Mirzaei noted that people should be told the truth that the country is on the brink of water bankruptcy and there is no solution unless extreme measures are taken.

Energy experts, including Gabriel Collins, the Baker Botts Fellow in Energy & Environmental Regulatory Affairs at the Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies, believe that Iran’s current water stress is partly a product of hydrology and climate. But perhaps most of all, it stems from decades of mismanagement that is likely to make it very difficult to alleviate the emerging crisis.


Iran water shortage Water Crisis diplomatic relations dam construction