Iran reconsiders Caspian-Gulf water canal plan

Dalga Khatinoglu

Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament says that Khatam al-Anbia Company, owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are studying the possibility of connecting Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf through a water canal.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi told Fars News Agency Feb.26 that this canal is important both politically and economically.

Plan to build a navigable canal from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf has been discussed for over a century - from the Qajar dynasty to this day.

To what extent is it possible to implement this plan?

Former Minister of Energy of Iran Majid Namjou stated in 2012 that Iran would soon launch a plan to build a navigable canal from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.

The plan also provides for transfer of 500 million cubic meters of water from the Caspian Sea to the central regions suffering from drought, and its use in agriculture and industrial applications.

The project requires funds in the amount of $7 billion, the minister said.

Tehran has said nothing about the effectiveness of the project from an economic point of view, considering the location of the Caspian Sea 29 meters below sea level, the location of Alborz mountain range in the country's north, as well as the location of the central regions, in particular, deserts of Kavir and Lut in the lowlands, as well as other technical issues.

One liter of water from the Caspian Sea contains 13 grams of salt, making use of such water for agricultural purposes not possible; it is also disadvantageous to desalinate it.

Direct distance from the north to the south of Iran is about 1,200 kilometers, but Boroujerdi says that there is some global experience behind building a canal such a long distance. "For instance, China's 1,300 km-long canal from south to north is an example for these kind of ware transferring projects," he said.

In 2012, ISNA reported that (IRGC) would begin the plan for desalination of waters of the Caspian Sea, which will cost $2 billion. This plan is part of a larger plan for connecting the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. However, the project hasn't made any progress yet.

The history of making a connection between the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf goes back over a 100 years, but more recently, after the Islamic Revolution, Iranian authorities occasionally have refreshed this idea.

During the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989 to 1997), as well as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005 to 2013) the idea of connecting the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf was raised, but plans were never implemented.

When, where and how far this new plan will go remains to be seen.

Edited by CN

Dalga Khatinoglu is an expert on Iran's energy sector, head of Trend Agency's Iran news service.

Follow him on @dalgakhatinoglu

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