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Time is Running out for Salvaging Elamite Site


08 November 2004



The water-filling operation for the Karoun 3 dam, which threatens to submerge historical sites in southwestern Iran, was kicked off Monday, as Iran’s cultural heritage officials turned down the invitation to take part in the ceremony, attended by Energy Minister Habibollah Bitaraf.

The dam is located east of Izeh, in the Khuzestan province, home to ancient civilizations and monuments. Now archeologists have just one month to rescue Elamite sites and 6 months to salvage relics left over from the Iron Age. A team of Iranian archaeologists have already expressed its willingness to join the experts currently working at the Izeh historical site to help identify, document and save the ancient Elamite site.

Iran lacks either the necessary underwater archaeology expertise or proper equipment so it will be almost impossible to save the site unless foreign experts are invited, said Mahmud Mireskandari of the underwater archaeology team at the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO).

Although Iran's power capacity will increase by 44 per cent after a 2,000-mw hydropower plant that is to be built beside Karoun 3 dam is completed in the near future, the potential damage to unexplored sites is incalculable. Some 40 percent of the reservoir space will be filled with water in the next three months, submerging rare artifacts yet to be documented.

The Karoun 3 hydropower plant will be the third biggest in Iran after Masjed Soleyman and Shahid Abbaspour plants. The capacity of the reservoir dam is estimated at 1.25 billion cubic meters. Mahab Co. undertook the construction project along with a Canadian contractor in 1995. The company spent a total of $10.8 million to buy lands on either side of the project location.

Altogether, some $900 million was spent to implement the Karoun 3 project. The dam, once operational, is estimated to bring $200 million for the country each year.



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