EghtesadOnline: The plan to supply water from the Oman Sea in south Iran to three eastern provinces will begin in February, deputy director of Khorasan Razavi Regional Water Company said.
“An estimated 750 million cubic meters of fresh water will be supplied annually to Sistan-Baluchestan, South Khorasan and Khrosan Razavi provinces for drinking and industrial use,” ILNA quoted Alireza Taheri as saying.
Sistan-Baluchestan in the southeast will be the first to receive water and the other two provinces will get their share next year (beginning March 2020), Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
The three provinces have been long suffering from acute water shortages. Environmentalists and experts say transferring water from the Gulf of Oman through pipelines to the parched and water-stressed regions is the best possible way to tackle the water crisis.
Complaining about the unusually huge amount of water wasted in the agro sector, Taheri said: “The world's average water consumption in farms is about 70%, while it is 87% in Khorasan Razavi Province”.
The official referred to low-yield agriculture as a major problem and said it was necessary to put an end to cultivation of water intensive crops, and instead use the water in the mining, steel and cement industries in the province.
Saffron is a major product of Khorasan Razavi, which is very costly but lucrative for the province.
Iranian saffron is exported to over 40 countries including the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Qatar, Japan, Turkmenistan, France, Italy and the US.
The country exported 74 tons of saffron worth $78 million during the first five months of the current fiscal year (March 21-Aug. 22).
Iran is the world’s biggest producer of saffron and accounts for more than 90% of global production.
Saffron is cultivated in 22 Iranian provinces -- more than two-thirds in Khorasan Razavi.
Wheat, cotton, pistachio, barley, corn, broad beans and a variety of fruits are among other agricultural products of the northeastern province.
Farmers in Sistan-Baluchestan, South Khorasan and Khrosan Razavi provinces consume 11 billion cubic meters of water a year.
Experts say if the three provinces cut water consumption by 3% a year, there will be no need to spend $4 billion to transfer sea water to those regions.
It is generally believed that macro projects (water transfer) usually lead to environmental disaster like exacerbating soil erosion and throwing marine ecosystems out of balance.
Environmentalists warn that in addition to harming the eco-system, transferring water (via a 1,600km pipeline) can create false hope among farmers and undermine their obligation to rethink their unacceptable and wasteful farming practices that have long reached crisis point.
Officials say addressing the ever-growing problems related to water deficits should commence by 2022 before reaching a point of no return.
A study conducted by the World Resources Institute has ranked Iran as the world's 24th most water-stressed nation, putting it at extremely high risk of future water scarcity.