Iran: ecologists, archaeologists protest dam project

Archeologists warn that if the Sivand Dam in Iran’s southern Fars Province is completed, precious relics from antiquity will be lost. The dam is projected to flood a gorge and an archaeological area called the Tangeh Balaghi. By increasing humidity in the environs, experts say the floodplain could also damage the nearby Pasargadae plain, which includes the sixth century BCE tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of the first Persian Empire under the Achaemenid dynasty. Supporters of the Sivand project point to the hydroelectric power that the dam will generate for the area and possibilities for economic growth. The dam is slated to be completed this month, and the floodplain will take one year to fill. Teams of Iranian and foreign archaeologists are working feverishly to finish excavations at sites due to be flooded. A letter of protest against the project was has been issued by 30 organizations and parties—including the Association of Qom Seminary Researchers and Teachers, a reformist clerical grouping. The statement points out that the project would also flood traditional grazing grounds for nomadic tribes, and drown at least 8,000 trees—some of them 500 years old. Protests were held against the project Feb. 12 at the Energy Ministry in Tehran, and in front of parliament two days later. (RFE/RL, Feb. 23)

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