EghtesadOnline: The first phase of a plan to transfer water from Aras River in northwest to Tabriz in East Azarbaijan Province is to be inaugurated by President Hassan Rouhani, the provincial governor general said.
"The first phase cost $57 million and was funded by the National Development Fund of Iran, the sovereign wealth fund," Mohammad Reza Pourmohammadi was quoted as saying by the Persian-language economic newspaper Donya-e-Eqtesad Tuesday.
He said 35 kilometers of high-pressure pipelines have been laid while six pumping stations are operational in Golfaraj and Gardian Dams.
East Azarbaijan's share of water from Aras River amounts to 282 million cubic meters a year, of which 180 mcm will be used for farming and industries and the rest as potable water, Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
"The first phase will provide 102 mcm for 5,000 hectares of land in the province," the governor general noted, adding that the plan, when completed, would supply water to 3.3 million people in 22 cities and 16 villages in and around Tabriz.
Construction of phase 2 is estimated to cost $770 million and an agreement will be signed with a Chinese contractor, he said without providing details.
The second phase entails 105km of pipeline in addition to utilities like pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants. Environmental permits have been issued by the Department of Environment, he added.
The project to send water from Aras River to East Azarbaijan was launched in 2010 and triggered controversy as environmentalists insist it will negatively impact the people's livelihood along the river, especially in Ardebil Province where the water is used both for drinking and farming.
Iran is situated in an arid and semi-arid region and average precipitation rate has fallen to levels way below the global average while underground water resources are drying up rapidly.
Originating in Turkey, Aras flows eastward and forms international boundaries between Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan to the north and Turkey and Iran in the south. After about 1,070 km, it joins the Kura River in Azerbaijan before reaching the Caspian Sea.