Call to Stop Dam Construction and Inter-Basin Water Transfer Projects to Save Local Communities and Preserve Ecosystems

Statement on the International Day of Action Against Water Transfer, “Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Day”

By People’s Campaign to Save the Kind Zagros, Iran, 17 April 2021 (28 Farvardin 1400 according to Persian calendar)

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The slogan of this year’s World Water Day (22 March 2021 / 2 Farvardin 1400), “Valuing Water,” emphasized that the true value of water is much higher than its price. However, despite awareness raising, we still witness ignorance of about the vital importance of water resources through destructive and costly dam construction and inter-basin water transfers in Iran.

Gigantic water transfer projects are underway in Iran such as Khersan, Sabzkooh, Behesht-Abad, Koohrang 3 Dam, Vanak-Rafsanjan and Gulab on the Karun River, Alborz to Tehran on the Karaj River, Jiroft to Kerman on the Halil River, and other dam projects such as Lori, Bakhtiari, Lesser Zab, and dozens of other similar projects are under construction.

In addition, the Ministry of Energy plans to implement an alarming project to transfer water from the Caspian Sea to Semnan and expensive and energy-intensive projects to transfer water from the southern seas to areas around the country. The current policies and actions of the Ministry demonstrate that the health of rivers and other bodies of water is being given little priority. The structural mindset that dominates the Ministry continues to degrade the health of bodies of water in the country and negatively affect those who depend on them.

On the occasion of International Day of Action Against Water Transfer (17 April 2021 / 28 Farvardin 1400), we, as environmental activists, in convergence with people who love the nature of this province, will continue to defend the vitality of its largest river, Karun, and engage in the global proceedings protecting rivers and the environment to stop environmental destruction under the deceptive practice of “improving the water supply”.

As authors of this statement:

  • We believe that dam construction and inter-basin water transfer is among the largest threats to the life of rivers and their inhabitants, and we consider it our duty to strive for the protection of waterways, rectifying environmental water rights, and observe the natural rights of people living around rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
  • We believe that continuing water transfer programs will have dangerous social, economic, and environmental consequences and result in internal displacement and emigration.
  • We ask the honourable Judiciary to seriously address corruption in water transfer and dam construction projects, to criminalize environmental damage, take the necessary measures to prosecute criminals in this area, and accelerate environmental cases opened in the courts.
  • We request that necessary mechanisms be established, including special environmental courts, and that the Constitutional Court address violations of national law regarding water projects.
  • We call for the legistlation of a “Comprehensive Water Law” which takes into account the Supreme Leader’s[i] document on general environmental policies, considers the socio-environmental impacts of water projects, and includes the meaningful participation of civil society and local stakeholders.
  • We ask the honourable Islamic Consultative Assembly[ii] to immediately investigate dam construction and water transfer projects that have recently been added to its agenda.
  • We call for the dissolution of the Supreme Council of Water[iii] and reconstituting the mechanism as a participatory and democratic “Water Parliament”.
  • We call for serious protection of the country’s pastures and forests, non-structural management on aquifers and watersheds, and the prevention of mining and other activities that may lead to irreparable damage to the environment.
  • We call for major reforms in irrigation methods, the cessation of quantitative development of agricultural lands, and for changes in water consumption patterns in all sectors to reduce consumption and adapt to new climatic conditions.

(i) The head of state and the highest political and religious authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

(ii) Iranian Parliament.

(iii) The Supreme Council of Water is chaired over by the President of Iran, and it supervises the collaboration and coordination between the associated ministries and organisations. All related organisations and ministries, as well as parliamentary representatives, are members of this Council.

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