Rainfall brings drought-hit southeastern Iran back to life

May 3, 2019

TEHRAN – Long battled with drought, the southeastern province of Kerman benefits from heavy rainfall which filled the province’s water resources and quenched pastures’ thirst, despite causing damages to the infrastructure and farms, IRNA reported on Tuesday.

According to the Energy Ministry, province of Kerman met above normal rainfall averages amounting to 161.2 millimeters during the current crop year starting on September 23, while last year during the same period, it only rained some 47 millimeters in the province, so this year, the precipitation rates exceeded both of last year and long-term means by 238.7 and 35 percent, respectively. 

Abbas Saeedi, director of Agriculture Organization of Kerman Province, said that over the past decade, at least 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of forests and gardens have dried by drought.

Agriculture will face growth in the province, as precipitation brought some qanats across the province back to life, he added, noting, many dams in the province of Kerman have been saturated with water.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Saeedi referred to flooding as an experience which must not be taken for granted, adding, river banks and beds belongs to the river and no construction project should block its way.

In addition to watershed management, water consumption in different sectors including industry and agriculture must be controlled sustainably, otherwise the province will face water scarcity again, he concluded.

Since the beginning of the current water year (September 23, 2018), the province’s underground water resources absorbed water 125 percent more than that of last year, Mohammad Mehdi Rajabizadeh, director general of Kerman province natural resources and watershed management department said.

Over the past 20 years, severe drought and loss of vegetation cover have made the forests vulnerable to pests and diseases, as 550,000 hectares of forests were at risk of eradication being infected, he lamented.

He went on to highlight that this year, the province received much rainfall that pest and diseases will significantly decrease in the forest area.

Last year, 90 percent of the Kerman province's pistachio production was damaged due to unprecedented temperature rise and fall, as a result of that agricultural sector burdened a loss of 100 trillion rials (around $2.3 billion), Rajabizadeh further regretted.

Medicinal herbs cultivation will also increase in the province due to heavy rainfall, he noted, adding that last year cultivation of herbs have been banned due to water shortages.

Moreover, average forage production in the province’s rangelands is 65 kilograms per hectare, which reached below 20 kilograms last year, he added.

This is while, forage production is expected to reach 40 to 45 kilograms per hectare, which jumped 2-fold compared to the last year, he highlighted.

Referring to the disadvantages of increased rainfall in the province, he said that vegetation covers in the rangelands also have been expanded, which may increase the risk of wildfire during the next two months when temperature rises.

“Water resources condition in Kerman province highly depends on rainfall, therefore, proper management of rainwater is a must,” he stated, adding, natural resources conservation projects also must be drawn up.

Referring to the rainfall fluctuations, he noted that rainfall patterns are affected by climate change which contribute to intermittent rain and flooding along with soil erosion, so that underground resources water level remain low not absorbing the flood.

He explained that we must seek solutions to direct the rain water and flood to enter aquifers and subsurface resources, and enhance vegetation coverage to pace up the process, which is related to watershed management.

“So far, watersheds stretche to 10.5 million hectares in the province, 1.2 million hectares of which have undergone watershed management measures,” he said.

Northern part of Kerman province receives 18 billion cubic meters of rainfall annually, 3.6 billion cubic meters of which evaporates and forms flowing water that should be managed to prevent flooding, he stated.

He further noted that 7,412 different watershed structures have been constructed which led to storage of 290 million cubic meters of water, and it is planned to send 174 million cubic meters of water into the underground resources along with preserving 11 million tons of soil.

Since the past seven months, we have managed 160 million cubic meters of water accounting for 125 percent increase compared to the last year, he also added.

Since past 30 years, the total budget of watershed management for the province was 800 billion rials (nearly $20 million), while the needed budget for a 10-year period amounts to 50 trillion rials (about $1.1 billion), he concluded.

Kerman province bearing significant impacts of climate change, has suffered low precipitation rate over the recent years, recurrent droughts also led the city to become a major sand and dust storms hotspots, generating sand and dust particles which has haunted the city over and over last year.

According to a report published by the provincial disaster management organization in late January, storms reaching speed up to 70 kilometers per hour led to particulate matter concentration heading for 20 times above the safe levels, causing respiratory problems for the residents and blocking the roads over the province.

FB/MQ/MG

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