By Salma Elshahed | Al Arabiya News
Sunday, 24 May 2015

Iran is heading towards a serious water crisis, experts warn, saying that a booming population and water-intensive agricultural programs have led the Islamic Republic’s supply to reach “critical levels” this year.

The sixth report of a new series by Al Arabiya News Channel takes a look at the water crisis in Iran, as part of a special series tackling political, social and economic issues in the country.

“Misusing and wasting water resources are due to mismanagement in the field of water and natural resources,” Toronto-based Iranian environmental expert Sam Kosravi Fard told Al Arabiya News.

Last year, Iranian President Hassan Rowhani instructed the agriculture ministry to boost output in order to achieve self-sufficiency in five staple crops.

Iran’s agricultural sector reducing its water consumption would “hamper the target of self-sufficiency,” Bijan Khajehpour, a consultant at a Tehran-based group wrote.

Crop-growing alone “devours more than 90 percent of the water and the water efficiency is around 30 percent in this sector,” Kosravi Fard said, adding that a water shortage was inevitable.

“Moreover, the irrigation system hasn’t been modernized in many areas and the cultivation pattern is not matched with ecological capabilities. Therefore, the current issue was not unpredictable.”

Highlighting the magnitude of the crisis, a 2013 study by the World Resources Institute ranked Iran as the world’s 24th most water-stressed country.

In the past 50 years, the growing population has used up almost 70 percent of Iran’s groundwater supply, the Washington Post reported, adding that the situation would only worsen because of “unsustainable development.”

In ancient times, to deal with the country’s “arid and semi-arid” environment, “Iranians created the aqueduct in order to overcome the challenges caused by water shortages,” Kosravi Fard said.

But more recently, even when the Iranian government attempted to tackle the issue by building dams, the water held by the massive structures evaporated, he added.

“Several research and studies carried out by academics have shown the pros and cons of the dam in Iran,” he told Al Arabiya News.

However, the Iranian government did not consider the results of the studies “because the dam construction not only provides lots of benefits for VIPs, but also they are tools to be presented as success and achievement of officials,” he told Al Arabiya News.

Last Update: Sunday, 24 May 2015 KSA 20:13 – GMT 17:13