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Shushtar’s Ancient Water Systems

The ancient water systems of Shushtar have recently been included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. It is a spectacular complex of rivers, waterways, dams, waterfalls and canals, dating back centuries or even thousands of years ago.

Iran is a country with low rainfall and few water resources, and only some regions in the north and south have access to a plentiful supply of water. One of these areas is the province of Khuzestan at the foothills of the high snow-capped Zagros mountains. It contains several major rivers including the Karun which flows through Shushtar. But exploiting the water of this river for agricultural and industrial use called for an extraordinary feat of engineering and the creation of complex structures. This amazing system was developed from earliest times and many examples of it are still extant in and around Shushtar. It has served the area for thousands of years and was still in use as recently as a few decades ago when it began to fall into disrepair and was eventually abandoned.

Today, it has been replaced by several dams built in accordance with modern technological methods. As with the old system, these have served the purpose of controlling the river and storing its waters for irrigation, as well as the production of electricity today. But this has only been achieved at the expense of damaging the environment, including forests, grazing lands and wildlife. In contrast, the traditional system was developed in harmony with nature and lasted many centuries without harming the environment, whilst being as effective as modern methods.

In this multimedia report, we are taken back to ancient times to see examples and scenes from the extraordinary system of water engineering created in those days.

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