EghtesadOnline: With almost 500 million cubic meters of water wasted in the industrial and farming sectors in Semnan Province, a plan to transfer water from the Caspian Sea in the north to the arid region would indeed be an exercise in futility, an expert at the Research Institute for Forests and Range and director of the Public Participation Office of the Department of Environment said.
"An estimated 300 mcm of water is wasted due to old farming systems and a large volume (200 mcm) of drinking water is lost due to seepage and rusting pipelines in households and industries in the province," Mohammad Darvish told ILNA.
The Caspian-Semnan Water Transfer Project is planned to divert 200 mcm of desalinated water from to the central plateau. What is worrying environmentalists and climatologists is the fact that governments are willing to spend huge amounts on sea water transfer but do little to reduce water waste, Darvish complained.
"Cost of this project is estimated at $650 million. This is while one-tenth of the amount would be enough to reduce waste, implement water recycling programs and build wastewater treatment plants in the area."
According to Financial Tribune, if those in charge had tried and tested other options like promoting advanced irrigation techniques, recycling wastewater, separating potable water from wastewater and implementing watershed plans, water transfer schemes (as the last resort) would make sense, but (they have done nothing) an alternative that does not make economic and environmental sense has apparently been decided, he rued.
Experts like Darvish and academicians including Parviz Kardavani, a veteran eremologist and respected faculty member of Tehran University, say that the colossal amounts that will spent on sea water transfers should instead be used to educate the people and help researchers propose efficient water conservation technologies.
Lack of Vision
"This lack of vision will not be forgiven by future generations as it will let the vicious cycle of water waste continue in the province," Darvish warned.
The plan to transfer water from Caspian Sea in the north to drought-stricken Semnan Province will impose a huge cost on the ecosystem, he said.
According to the Darvish who is a renowned environmentalist, close to 4,000 trees should be cut to implement the plan.
Other ecologists including Naghmeh Mobarqei, an expert on environmental studies at Shahid Beheshti University, has also opposed the project for increasing " Caspian salinity and seriously harming marine ecosystems".
Desalination extracts mineral components from saline water, but it also produces large quantities of brine, possibly at temperatures above the ambient, which contains residues of pretreatment and cleaning chemicals.
Experts say brine is denser than seawater and therefore sinks to the bottom, directly harming the ecosystem.
The other contentious issue is the path through which the pipeline would reach Semnan.
According to Mobarqei, the 200-kilometer pipeline would have to pass through the Hyrcanian Forest, requiring the felling of trees in the ecologically-rich but vulnerable woodlands.
What's more, water will have to be pumped upward from 21 meters below sea level to 2,000 meters.
"Pumping equipment will require at least 350 megawatts of power, equal to one-third of the output of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant," Mobarqei noted.
She suggested that the modernizing framing systems for 1 million hectares of farmlands throughout the country, for instance, would require 3 trillion rials ($67 million) to curb water scarcity.
"The proposed water supply plan would do more harm than help and authorities should carefully study the consequences before taking any hasty action."
Calling the project revolutionary, on the other hand, proponents of the plan including Semnan governor-general Mohammad Reza Khabbaz believe that the project will effectively address Semnan’s struggle with water shortage and drought.
"The highly-publicized project to the drought-stricken province will “permanently” solve the province’s water problem," the official noted.