close button
Switch to Iranwire Light?
It looks like you’re having trouble loading the content on this page. Switch to Iranwire Light instead.

Water Crisis: Huge Tracts of Land in Iran Vulnerable to Sinkholes

July 9, 2021
3 min read
Water Crisis: Huge Tracts of Land in Iran Vulnerable to Sinkholes

The secretary of Iran’s Natural Disaster Task Force has said hundreds of large plains in the country are at risk of subsidence due to decreased level of underground water.

Ali Baitollahi, secretary of the nationwide working group, which was set up in 2002 and answers to the Interior Ministry, told ISNA news agency that no fewer than 609 tracts of land are vulnerable to landslides and cave-ins.

“This destructive phenomenon is directly related to groundwater depletion,” he said. “If the level of groundwater aquifers decreases, the ground level goes down.”

Furthermore, Baitollahi said, the process was irreversible: “If the subsidence such a level that all the aquifers become empty and dense, even if it rains and snows thousands of times in the coming years, the rainwater will no longer penetrate the soil.”

As well as worsening droughts, Baitollahi warned that subsidence could have a major impact on industrial infrastructure and power grids. Pylon foundations in such areas as Varamin, Eshtehard and Qom have already been weakened by reduced elevation.

"Land subsidence under oil and gas transmission lines will cause them to rupture,” Baitollahi said, “and will lead to hazards and loss of life."

Tehran and Iranian Cities Already Feeling the Effects of Subsidence

Baitollahi quoted a recent study that, he said, had examined the records since 1999 and established that over the past 20 years, elevation levels southwest of Tehran, at the intersection of the Azadegan Expressway and Saeedi Highway, had notably decreased.

Two other areas south of Tehran, including a 30 sq km zone on the way to Shahriyar and a 25km by 15km area of the Varamin plain, also showed “serious” subsidence.

In 2018 at least five major sinkholes opened up in Tehran in the Shahran area, Payambar Street, Ghiam Square, Mohammadieh Square, and the Molavi crossroads. In some cases they were fatal. The collapses made headlines around the world and at the time, Iranian officials immediately called for improved water management methods.

The agricultural community will be affected by subsidence because if water remains on the surface, nutrients will not find their way into the soil, turning fertile plains into deserts.

But Baitollahi warned that the most dramatic immediate effects could be observed in metropolitan areas such as Tehran, Isfahan, Kerman and Mashhad. Apart from the sinkholes, subsistence causes high-rise building structures to weaken, with potentially devastating consequences.

Beitollahi, who is also a member of Tehran’s Road, Housing and Urban Development Research Center, told ISNA he believed it was not too late. He criticized water-intensive farming methods for products such as watermelons and pointed out that subsidence had been reduced to near-zero in countries like Japan through planned action. “Unlike earthquakes,” he said, “landslides can be controlled.”

Related coverage:

The Water Crisis in Iran's Khuzestan Province

Desertification in Iran: A Ticking Time Bomb?

Iran's Water Crisis: In 20 Years Drought Could Make Some Iranian Cities Uninhabitable

Iranian and US Researchers Collaborate on Lake Urmia Restoration Study

Water Tariffs to Increase in Iran Ahead of Summer Shortages

250 Iranian Cities Face Summer Water Shortages

Iran Parliament Research: Worst Water Disaster in Two Years

“We Are Thirsty, Not Saboteurs”



Two Afghanistan-Iran Border Crossings Fall to the Taliban

July 9, 2021
2 min read
Two Afghanistan-Iran Border Crossings Fall to the Taliban