15 qanats, enduring heritage of Iranians listed by UNESCO, under restoration

TEHRAN – Restoration work has commenced on 15 Persian qanats, ancient subterranean aqueduct systems for supplying water, which is listed as World Heritage by UNESCO since 2016.

15 qanats, which are situated in Fanuj county of Sistan-Baluchestan province, southeast Iran, have undergone restoration with the participation of local farmers aimed to increase irrigation, Young Journalists Club reported.

The Ministry of Agriculture, for its part, has allocated 40 billion rials (some $80,000) to the restoration project.

Fanuj county is home to about 220 qanats, the report said.

Such man-carved subterranean aqueducts are of very high importance for the nation, as they supported agricultural and permanent settlements for millennia in arid and semi-arid regions of the Iranian plateau.

That enduring heritage of Iranians is a magnificent example of a technological ensemble illustrating significant stages in the rich history of Iran.

According to all experts, qanat is a culture, a top way to irrigate and live in desert areas, which experience high temperatures in summer.

As mentioned by UNESCO, qanats provide exceptional testimony to cultural traditions and civilizations in desert areas with an arid climate.

Technically speaking, qanats rely on snow-fed streams, which flow down the foothills of surrounding mountains channeling through sloping aqueducts, often over far distances to discharge into the city’s underground reservoirs or ab-anbars. Such constructions are still in practice, many of which were made from the 13th century onwards.

It works based on complex calculations and exceptional architectural qualities as water is collected and transported by mere gravity over long distances and these transport systems were maintained over centuries and, at times, millennia. The qanat system enabled settlements and agriculture but also inspired the creation of a desert-specific style of architecture and landscape involving not only the qanats themselves, but their associated structures, such as water reservoirs, mills, irrigation systems, and gardens.

When it comes to architectural elements, each qanat comprises an almost horizontal tunnel collecting water from an underground water source, usually an alluvial fan, into which a mother well is sunk to the appropriate level of the aquifer. Well-shafts are sunk at regular intervals along the route of the tunnel to enable the removal of spoil and allow ventilation. These appear as craters from above, following the line of the qanat from the water source to the agricultural settlement. The water is transported along underground tunnels, so-called koshkan, using gravity due to the gentle slope of the tunnel to the exit (mazhar), from where it is distributed by channels to the agricultural land of the shareholders.

Furthermore, the levels, gradient, and length of the qanat are calculated by traditional methods requiring the skills of experienced qanat workers and have been handed down over centuries. Many qanats have sub-branches and water access corridors for maintenance purposes, as well as dependent structures including rest areas for the qanat workers, public and private hammams, reservoirs, and watermills. The traditional communal management system still in place allows equitable and sustainable water sharing and distribution.

Qanats continue to provide the essential resource water sustaining Iranian settlements and gardens and remain maintained and managed through traditional communal management systems, the UN body says.


Source: Tehran Times