EghtesadOnline: Of the 6,500 qanats in Yazd Province 3,870 are no more usable, the provincial head of technical affairs department of the Agricultural Jihad Organization, affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture Jihad, said.
“Due to digging deep water wells, drought, floods and poor rehabilitation, many qanats have fallen into disrepair or have simply dried up,” IRNA quoted Abbas Besharati as saying.
By and large, close to 20% of the desert province’s water for farming comes from 2,630 qanats that help irrigate 30,000 hectares of farmlands and fruit gardens in Ashkezar, Abarkuh Zarch, Taft, Ardakan and Herat, Besharati said.
As the water crisis worsens the volume of water that can be extracted from the subterranean infrastructure is decreasing uninterruptedly.
“In the 2018-19 crop year, a period from one year's harvest to the next close to 170,000 liters of water was taken from qanats daily. In 1998 it was at least 400,000 liters a day.”
Although there are qanats (in Khatam County) that are full, large numbers have either been abandoned or on the verge of drying up because of by silt sedimentation in canals, migration of the youth and shortage of skilled workers able to care for the qanats and do the dredging.
In mountainous regions like Taft and Mehriz counties, close to 70% of water for agriculture comes from qanats and their regular rehabilitation should be on the Energy Ministry agenda, he stressed, saying that “the livelihood of 30,000 farmers depend on the qanats” in the hot and arid region long saddled with water deficits that have become part of the life of the people of this ancient land.
While qanats cannot replace advanced technology in water resources management, they still have a role to play as a known sustainable groundwater source since time immemorial.
Regarding renovation plans, the official said $2 million was spent on reconditioning the traditional structures in 2019.
For Environmental Sustainability
It has been seen recently that policy and decision makers are gradually realizing that environmental sustainability, among other things, demands revival of qanats.
“Unlike in the past, rehabilitation of qanats has drawn the attention of the Energy Ministry and they are ultimately paying attention to this crucial issue after decades,” Besharati added.
As the idiom goes: better late than never!
Located in an arid and semi-arid region, Iran has suffered from drought and extreme water deficits for decades.
Despite heavy rains in the last two years, officials are still concerned with water scarcity and plead for judicious consumption, especially in the agro sector where huge amounts of the precious resource has been, and is being, wasted with impunity.
For centuries, human societies in dry lands have overcome the challenges of water scarcity through traditional methods of water harvesting. Qanat technology is world famous.
Qanat is a traditional technique for accessing and managing underground water; it shaped the Iranian landscape and was the basis for inhabitation and construction.
The system is a subterranean infrastructure that gave access to the hidden water at the foot of mountains. Vertical shafts of successively increasing depth are connected by a horizontal underground tunnel, which directs the water from subterranean water sources down a slight slope to gardens and farms.
As a technique, qanats have been used throughout history in different parts of the world—in the Middle East, around the Mediterranean, in the Americas, and even in west China. Although its exact history and origin is disputable, it is believed to be an Iranian invention and has been in use in Iran for thousands of years.
Qanats have proved to be an extraordinarily valuable and sustainable traditional technology, which throughout the historical ages has been transferred from ancient Persia where it originated to numerous countries all over the world, particularly those with arid and semi-arid climates.
There are almost 36,000 qanats in the country, which if revived, can help curb water shortages in many dry regions like the provincial capital city of Yazd that is believed to be the hottest region north of the Persian Gulf and is Iran’s driest metropolis.
Yazd Province has a population of 1.13 million, 85% of which live in urban areas. It is a major tourist attraction and one of the known centers producing textiles, ceramics and construction material.