EghtesadOnline: Providing 80 million people with food has been made possible largely due to the existence of dams across the country, the energy minister says.
In a talk with ILNA, Reza Ardakanian referred to the importance of dam construction in an arid country like Iran.
“We live in a country with disproportionate spatial distribution of rainfall. A major part of the rain (usually) pours in a short period and in specific regions. If we don’t have reservoirs to collect the rainwater, how can we supply water during the rest of the year including to regions where there is no water?”
Dams are essential for socio-economic development. Water can be stored in them to assure the availability of a reliable supply to satisfy domestic, industrial and agricultural requirements, according to Financial Tribune.
They can be used to regulate the flow of water in rivers. Water can be released from the reservoir to support wildlife and ecosystems downstream during drought and can be released for agricultural use during the drought.
Over the past 30 years Iran has built over 600 dams and the dam-building policy has made the country the world’s third-biggest dam builder after China and Japan.
Dams not only provide water for irrigation, human consumption, industrial use and hydroelectric plants, they also help suppress floods.
Heavy rains and deluges, which hit northern, southern and southwestern Iran in March and April, caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage to roads, bridges, homes and farmland. It affected 4,400 villages, damaged 14,000 kilometers of roads and destroyed more than 700 bridges. At least 80 people were killed.
Surging rivers burst their banks, sending an avalanche of floodwater into villages and towns which drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Officials say dams played a crucial role in damage control and saved many lives and property. Such claims are open to question, environmentalists and experts in and out of Iran say.
For example one international report says by 2015, the dam industry had choked more than half of the Earth's major rivers with some 57,000 large dams.
The consequences of this massive engineering program have been devastating. The world's large dams have wiped out species, flooded huge areas of wetlands, forests and farmlands and displaced tens of millions of people.
Help or Harm?
“If it wasn’t for the 6 billion-cubic-meter reservoir of Karkheh Dam (in southwestern Khuzestan Province), Khuzestan would be completely inundated by floods and a national tragedy could happen,” Ardakanian said.
There are three major rivers in the province, Dez, Karun and Karkheh, all vulnerable to occasional flooding that produces serious damage.
“In recent decades, more than 130 large floods have hit Khuzestan and there have been human casualties, agricultural, livestock and financial losses almost every two years. However, the 10 dams built in the region have saved the province (from total destruction),” the minister claimed.
“I’ve seen reports that say if we did not have dams, the floods would be better controlled. This is completely incorrect.”
In a space of five days, 3 billion cubic meters of water flowed into dam reservoirs in Khuzestan due to heavy rainfall in March, 1.8 billion of which was above capacity and had to be released, the minister said.
“Emergency discharge from dams and reservoirs added to the peril of floodwaters. But if there were no dams, all the water that flowed in would move toward cities, towns and villages, making a bad situation worse.”
While dams in relative terms have contributed to good, their construction has also resulted in negative environmental impacts in large parts of the world.
As Iran has faced severe drought and dry climate in recent years, some critics have argued that the large number of dams are indeed harming not helping, and adding to the environmental damage including destruction of the ecosystem.