TEHRAN, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Iran has launched a project to divert water from the Sea of Oman to its central plateau, Press TV reported on Thursday.
The project could not only address the country's surging water crisis but could also help push ahead relevant economic plans in host regions, Alireza Razm-Hosseini, the governor general of Iran's southern province of Kerman, was quoted as saying.
This would be the biggest water transfer project in the Middle East, Razm-Hosseini said, adding that the government of President Hassan Rouhani had allocated the required funds for the project.
Water would be desalinated at an entry point in Iran's shores before being transferred inland, he said.
The official described Iran's southern Kerman province as one of the most arid provinces of Iran with an average rainfall of only about 129 millimeters per year and an annual water shortage level of 800 million cubic meters.
Kerman industry and agriculture mostly used water from underground resources for irrigation, which is a serious threat to the province's environment, he said, adding that the depletion of underground water resources had already led to the evacuation of many villages.
The government had developed serious plans to prevent further depletion of underground water resources by encouraging growing agricultural products that consume less water such as saffron and barberry, he said.
Iran Environment Protection Organization Masoumeh Ebtekar said earlier that water resources should be managed properly and consumption should be fairly regulated.
More than half of Iran's cities are struggling with water shortages, said Iranian state media.
Further reports also blamed the water crisis in Iran on excessive damming of rivers, bad irrigation practices, drought and climate change.
On top of this, low water prices encourage wasteful consumption while some farmers and organizations have been accused of stealing water supplies for their own purposes.
A study conducted by the World Resources Institute ranked Iran as the world's 24th most water-stressed nation, putting it at extremely high risk of future water scarcity.