EghtesadOnline: Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Institute, affiliated to the Agriculture Ministry, had warned Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization about the disastrous consequences of flash floods in Mamoulan and Pol-e Dokhtar counties in Lorestan Province as well as Aq-Qala county in Golestan Province, the head of the institute said on Monday.
"A flood hazard atlas was prepared by the research institute in 2006 in which experts declared that residential areas in certain regions would be inundated in case of a flood," ISNA also quoted Jahangir Pourhemmat as saying.
According to the official, the atlas was revised and updated in 2015 and new areas near the downstream side of dams and river banks were added to the map, Financial Tribune reported.
Criticizing all those who turned a deaf ear to advance warnings, he said, "The institute sent a copy of the atlas to all related organizations and ministries, including Energy Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, Crisis Management Organization and the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, 13 years ago. Nonetheless, they either kept it in their bookshelves or used it to decorate their offices."
Pourhemmat added that the atlas provides information on frequently flooding small towns and villages, and also determines flood hazard severity in different districts based on flood hazard categories, flood hazard areas and annual flood variations.
Heavy rainfall began four weeks ago, overflowing rivers, washing away bridges, inundating houses and destroying infrastructure. The heavy downpours and the calamity it inflicted were unprecedented in the past six decades.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced and many are in dire need of food, water, tents and blankets.
The tragedy started in northern provinces, including Golestan, on March 19 and claimed over 80 lives.
Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Institute is active in soil conservation, watershed management, river engineering and training, coastal protection, hydrology and water resources development, as well as flood management in Iran’s Agriculture Ministry.
Water experts like Anoush Esfandiari, a researcher at the Water Policy Research Institute, a subsidiary of Kerman Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, believe that unlike the past, there are no clear control mechanisms to ban construction within specific perimeters of water bodies.
"There were unambiguous economic development laws, but now there are no clear regulations," because of which thousands of families in Lorestan and Khuzestan provinces had to flee.
According to Esfandiari, in the past, housing projects were banned near rivers so that nobody would be harmed in case of a deluge, “but now thousands of residents in Khuzestan and Sistan-Baluchestan have been ordered to leave their houses”.
Commenting on the recent wide-scale devastations caused by floods in western and southwestern regions, Shahab Naderi, a lawmaker from Paveh in the western Kermanshah Province, blamed municipalities for issuing housing construction permits near river banks.
"This is mismanagement," he said, stressing that those who sacrifice the future of a nation on the altar of personal gain should be held accountable.