EghtesadOnline: Wastewater treatment and use of recycled water in the agricultural and industrial sectors can help tackle the worsening water crisis in drought-stricken South Khorasan Province, head of the provincial water company said.
“The first phase of a wastewater treatment plant with a capacity of 21,500 cubic meters per day will become operational in Birjand in 2020,” Mehdi Hashemi Moqadam was quoted as saying by the Energy Ministry’s news portal Wednesday.
This is the largest water project in the province financed by ECO Trade and Development Bank and cost $19 million. The bank is a regional multilateral lender established under the auspices of the Economic Cooperation Organization.
Although the city has long been grappling with water shortages it does not have a wastewater network. Development plans underway in Birjand are moving ahead very slowly while a large volume of valuable drinking water is lost due to seepage and rusting pipelines, Financial Tribune reported.
“Should water tariffs increase, the money can be used to rehabilitate the ageing network,” he claimed.
While Iran has been grappling with perpetual drought for at least 14 years, drought-stricken province of South Khorasan is saddled with the disturbing phenomenon for 17 years causing groundwater levels to drop by 60 meters.
Located in eastern Iran, South Khorasan’s dry climate and desert terrain make farming difficult but still 35% of the population relies on agriculture. Needless to say, drought has taken a heavy toll on the shrinking farming community leaving in its trail a barren landscape and abandoned rural areas.
Deserted Rural Areas
According to Hashem Valipour, a consultant in South Khorasan’s Agriculture Jihad Organization, 50% of the province’s villages are now deserted.
“Of the 3,500 villages 1,600 are devoid of people.”
Dwindling water resources and vanishing farmlands leave the rural folks with no option but to move to cities in increasing numbers to find work.
Recurrent droughts have led to the desiccation of 15% of aqueducts and reduction of water levels in 30% of South Khorasan qanats.
Gradual loss of water resources has prompted people to take drastic measures, one of which is digging illegal wells and withdrawing excess water further exacerbating the water problem.
Water experts like Esmail Shahbazi say promoting judicious water consumption is no more workable in tackling the worsening water crisis, nor are costly methods such as cloud seeding.
They insist the government should play a bigger role in recycling wastewater. Currently 194 wastewater treatment plants operate in Iran with total sewage treatment capacity of 10.3 million cubic meters per day.
Recycling wastewater has come under the spotlight in recent years as regions continue to grapple with perennial drought that has left large swathes of land barren and is forcing large numbers to abandon rural homes as the business of farming comes to a near standstill wiping out livelihoods.
So far 62,755km of wastewater pipelines have been laid across the country and 300 cities are connected to the wastewater network.
Iran’s water recycling in agriculture is below 50%. Almost 90% of the scarce water resources is gulped down by the water-intensive and poorly-managed farming sector.
ECO is an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the member states. In 1992, it was expanded to include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.