Qanats, our unique cultural heritage

April 22, 2006
TEHRAN – The qanat subterranean aqueduct system has been used in Iran for over 30 centuries. It is the root of life and a precious economic resource.

The things our ancestors have left us are part of our historical and cultural heritage, whether it be a stone inscription or a monument or a piece of jewelry.

Qanats (underground aqueducts), which are a historical and cultural heritage, are an economic heritage as well. Their role in the creation of large and small oases is undeniable.

There are thousands of oases in the middle of deserts which owe their existence entirely to the qanat network.

The qanats have brought life to the searing deserts, where there is not much rain and no sign of flowing rivers or springs.

A qanat can function for centuries. The green trees fed by these qanats invite every tired traveler in the heart of the desert to take a rest.

When one sits in the cool shade of a tree beside a stream of water from a qanat in a small village in the desert and listens to the sound of the gurgling water, it is as if one is listening to the song of life. One never tires of watching the water flow.

We will never know how many devoted men lost their lives while digging to find water and how many finally prevailed over the vast desert by discovering water and bringing life to the land. Is it not true that where there is water, there is everything?

Our ancestors’ efforts to provide water in the deserts have left us 55,000 large and small qanats. Some 22,000 have been destroyed by natural or human factors but 33,000 are still functioning. Over 9 billion cubic meters of water from these qanats is used annually.

It is our duty to value this hidden treasure bequeathed to us by our ancestors and to make the best use of it. Let us not do any harm to the qanats that would threaten the lives of many people in small and large villages.

The Taft Qanat Center for Higher Education, affiliated to the Energy Ministry, is located in Yazd Province. It is the only center in the country which offers technical training on the exploitation and management of qanats.

Thirty-seven students were trained in the 2004-2005 academic year and 21 who enrolled in 2005 are currently studying at the center. The center also offers courses in computer science and water industry accounting.