By M.A. Saki

Tough decisions needed to revive Zayandehrud

November 14, 2021 - 14:47

President Ebrahim Raisi has tasked Presidential Center for Strategic Studies director Mohammad Sadeq Khayyatian to start scientific studies on reviving Zayandehrud River, ISNA reported on Saturday.

Raisi has also ordered a study of land subsidence in different parts of the country. The order by the president followed his meeting with representatives of Isfahan, Qom, and Semnan in the parliament.

Khayyatian has also written on his Instagram page that this is the “first special mission” given to him by the president and that he plans to pursue the issue “scientifically and operationally with the support of all experts, university professors, and scientific centers.”

The order by the president is heartening if it is pursued seriously and unstoppably because such a task entails some steps which naturally will not be welcomed by a considerable number of Isfahani farmers who are growing water-intensive crops, such as onion and rice, especially in the Lenjan region.

The first vital step to revitalize Zayandehrud, which passes through the tourist city of Isfahan, is to ban the cultivation of water-intensive crops by farmers living in the upriver.

Farmers in upstream areas who excessively pump waters from Zayandehrud should be warned that their irrigation system has inflicted damages on other farmers in the downriver to the extent that they cannot even irrigate their wheat farms. Additionally, they have deprived the city of Isfahan of the flowing river for years.

Farmers should be reminded that making high profits from rice cultivation or other water-intensive crops is not sustainable. They should be informed that if they go on with this kind of farming, in the not-too-distant future they will have no water to irrigate crops such as wheat, barley, and beans cultivated for centuries.

The cultivation of water-intensive crops is not the only culprit for the current situation. Part of the problem is due to climate-induced droughts. However, protecting the country, not just Isfahan, Yazd, and Semnan provinces from the environmental harms, necessitates tough decisions.

Farmers should be encouraged or “even forced” to grow alternative crops. But in order to keep jobs in the agricultural sector and ensure food security, the government should grant long-term and interest-free loans to farmers to develop greenhouses, which reduce water consumption considerably.

It should be borne in mind that even countries which are in a much better situation in terms of rainfall and snowfall are building greenhouses to conserve water.

Farmers in Isfahan are complaining that a considerable portion of Zayandehrud water is used by industrial complexes. This is true. Scientific experts should find a way to either recycle the water used for industrial purposes or if necessary, relocate these industries.

The Presidential Center for Strategic Studies, which has been given the mission to study restoration of Zayandehrud and land subsidence, should not just restrict itself to particular provinces because the arid and semi-arid Iranian plateau may suffer greatly if water consumption is not regulated, especially as climate change has been taking tolls on Iran for more than three decades.

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