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News Release No:2005/489/MNA
Sereen Juma (202) 473-7199
WASHINGTON, May 26, 2005 — The World Bank today approved a total of $344 million in loans for two projects that support the Government of Iran in delivering a clean and reliable water supply and sanitation to poor urban neighborhoods and boosting agricultural productivity in farming communities with improved irrigation systems.
About 98 percent of the urban population in Iran is connected to public water supplies, but only 23 percent have access to public sanitary sewerage. In the cities of Rasht, Babol, Sari and Anzali along the Caspian Coast in the north, the sewerage system is underdeveloped with wastewater discharged to ditches and rivers as well as natural water bodies running through these cities, such as the Anzali Lagoon, an internationally recognized wetland. As a result, the water supply is polluted and the environment unhealthy, posing a health risk to the one million residents in these cities.
The Northern Cities Water Supply and Sanitation Project ($224 million) is part of a long-term plan to extend water supply and wastewater collection and disposal systems in Rasht, Babol, Sari and Anzali to ensure residents have reliable supply of water. Wastewater collections services and treatment facilities will improve health conditions in urban centers and contribute to the protection of natural resources in the area, like the Anzali Lagoon. The project will also strengthen local institutions to improve the efficiency of water service delivery.
In Iran, more than 90 percent of water is consumed by agriculture, which accounts for one-fourth of non oil export earnings. Although the country has invested heavily in building dams, it is facing a water crisis on several fronts. Irrigation water use efficiency remains very low despite the importance of agriculture and water quality is deteriorating with silt infiltrating dam reservoirs due to poor forest and range land management.
“While benefits from Iran’s investments in dams have been substantial in terms of securing much needed water for economic development, there is scope for improving water resources management on a river basin scale by applying global best practices,” says Joseph Saba, World Bank Country Director for Iran.
In response to these challenges, the Alborz Integrated Land and Water Management Project ($120 million) will pilot a holistic approach to managing land and water resources at the river basin level in the province of Mazandaran along the Caspian Sea.
Named after the Alborz mountain range that stretch across the northern provinces, this project will modernize irrigation and drainage systems and involve farmers in decision-making on water allocation and management by creating Basin Water Councils and Water Users Associations. It will also introduce community-based land and water conservation to reduce soil erosion and protect water quality, particularly in poor communities.
“Both projects place people and local institutions at the heart of water resource management and delivery of clean and safe water,” says Saba. “Safeguarding water resources is a shared responsibility that not only promotes a cleaner environment, but also contributes to social inclusiveness and fighting poverty.”
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