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THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACTS OF WATER SCARCITY IN THE IR IRAN


Scott VITKOVIC1* and Daryoush SOLEIMANI
1P29.12.1392@gmail.com
*Corresponding Author
Abstract
The past 15 years of exceptionally severe water scarcity in the Islamic Republic of Iran have resulted in the
desertification and salinity of formerly arable lands, drying out of Iranian lakes and rivers, and quickly
shrinking groundwater resources, while water demand has risen, along with the size of the Iranian
population, of which over 70% lives in urban areas now. We have aimed to discover the causes of water
scarcity in the IR Iran and evaluated its social and economic impacts. First, we computed the Weighted
Anomaly Standardized Precipitation (WASP) Index for the period of 1979-2014. To illustrate the social impact
of water scarcity, we analyzed the current water risk for the twenty most populous Iranian cities, by
employing the composite index approach to translate hydrological data into comprehensible indicators of
water related risks, and made a projection for 2020-2030, by modeling potential changes in the future
demand and supply of water. To demonstrate the economic impact of water scarcity, we evaluated the overall
agricultural contribution to the IR Iran GDP. We have found that the 1999 severe drought in the IR Iran
commenced a period of unusually dry conditions that is still ongoing. The rapidly growing Iranian urban
populations presently experience a medium to extremely high overall water risk, with extremely high
baseline water stress that, in part, is due to the lack of upstream protected lands. The relationship between
baseline water stress and drought severity has been determined as weak, confirming that other factors than
drought are equally or more important contributors to the existing water risk. Our projection calculations
indicate that Iranian urban populations will continue to experience an extremely high water stress for the
coming decade. Due to the fast growth of these populations as well as considerable rise of value added to
the IR Iran GDP by other sectors of the national economy, the contribution of agricultural production to the
national GDP has declined from about 25% to under 10% (although its total yield has risen considerably)
during the past 30 years. This decrease has been directly proportional to the increased foreign food
imports, dependency on the IR Iran oil exports and reduction in the non-oil exports. The main causes of
water scarcity in the IR Iran appear to be due to climatic factors, insufficient environmental protection, and
over-exploitation and mismanagement of water resources, especially by the agricultural sector. In conclusion,
our study proposes anti-wasting water management action plan that recommends shifting the IR Iran
government response to water scarcity from reactive survival strategies to proactive crisis prevention, with
emphasis on safeguarding, monitoring, early warning, and effective step-by-step preparedness and
readiness, and by laterally integrating water management between all levels of the IR Iran government,
including local, regional and national, for a sustainable, resilient and prosperous economy of the Islamic
Republic of Iran now and in the future.
Keywords: Agriculture, Desertification, Drought, Environment, GDP, Islamic Republic of Iran, Pollution,
Salinity, Urbanization, Water, Weighted Anomaly Standardized Precipitation (WASP) Index;

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