The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(CAIS) -- One
of Iran's most controversial development projects, the Sivand Dam, is located
about 60 kilometres from the ruins of the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis
and about 12 kilometres from Pasargadae, the first capital of the ancient
dam is being constructed in the Bolaghi Valley of the southern Fars Province,
where archaeologists have in the past three years identified more than 100
potentially important historical sites.
have warned that the dam could be a real threat to Iran's historical sites once
its reservoir is filled with water, which is due to happen within five months --
inundating parts of the valley where the historical sites are located.
activists warned that filling the dam would also lead to the flooding of
Pasargadae, and some have even compared the project to the destruction of the
giant Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban.
Kazemi is the director of the Takht-e Jamshid (Persepolis) historical site
affiliated to Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization. He tells RFE/RL that
UNESCO's world heritage site of Pasargadae is not endangered by the dam because
the ruins of the former capital are at a higher altitude.
level of the water will reach an altitude 1,830 meters at its peak but the
height of the Pasargadae historical region is 1,850 meters above the sea
level," he said. "At the peak of its inundation the distance between
the dam's lake and Pasargadae would be 9 kilometres; that means that the Sivand
Dam is by no means a threat to the Pasargadae region."
Says No Danger
is, however, unclear if the increased moisture caused by the dam will affect the
archaeological site at Pasargadae, which represents a great example of ancient
Iranian civilization. Kazemi says research is being conducted about the
possible impact of humidity.
dam was supposed to be completed along with the Dorudzand and Molasadra
dams," he said. "Dorudzand Dam is currently being operated; in the
27-28 years since its launch we have not witnessed any signs that the increase
in the region's humidity has lead to the destruction of the environment around
it. Regarding Pasargadae, at the time of its construction [some 3,000 years
ago], the Polvar River ran nearby and this river was used to irrigate
Pasargadae's gardens that were known as pardis [Persian for paradise]."
project and its potential threat to Pasargadae, which includes the mausoleum of
Cyrus the Great, has led to an outcry among many Iranians who consider the site
an important part of their national heritage.
the Great -- the founder of the second Iranian dynasty and the first Persian
Empire in the sixth century BCE -- is known for issuing what is described as the
first declaration of human rights.
lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah says his legacy should be valued and given high
Versus Historical Legacy
single development project that would be effective for a maximum of 50 years
should not destroy a 3,000-year-old culture," he said. "A broken rock
from Cyrus's the Great’ mausoleum has more value than the whole Sivand Dam
because a dam can be built anywhere in this country but in the whole world we
have only one Cyrus the Great’ mausoleum."
have said that Iran's leaders should give a higher value to the country's
ancient sites and maintain a balance between safeguarding historical heritage
and economic development.
official Kazemi defends the Sivand Dam as a "very good move" that will
improve the life of people in the region.
a lack of coordination between the Energy Ministry and the Cultural
Heritage Organization in the past 10 or 12 years since the study of the project
began has created this issue," Kazemi said. "But regarding the
scarcity of water in the region we can say that it will transform the life of
the people in the region and also people living in the town of Arsanjan in
he does acknowledge that recently discovered archaeological sites about which
not much is known will go under water once the dam is filled.
80 percent of the 130 historical sites that have been identified in the Bolaghi
Valley will be underwater after the flooding of the Sivand Dam," he
continued. "In these sites, [significant] historical remains like
Persepolis have not been found. These are research and study sites, maybe the
information that is being is extracted would show they don't include any unique
remains, meaning that the extraction and study of their information would be
enough for experts."
Race Against Time
2003, the United Nations issued an appeal for archaeologists to rush to the
Bolaghi Valley to unearth and record the historical remains before the dam was
then historical remains -- including long canals built in stone, caves inhabited
some 4,000 years ago, metal furnaces, and ancient cemeteries -- have been
excavated by Iranian and international archaeologists.
some Iranian officials have downplayed the importance of these sites, activists
and archaeologists have called for more time to be given to rescue the
historical remains. They say the sites hold a wealth of information about Iran's
those concerned by the project is Iran's former empress, Shabanou Farah Pahlavi,
who spoke to Radio Farda Persian Service.
have said that the filling of the Sivand Dam was postponed for a year because of
the importance of the region's historic heritage. They say that due to its
economic importance, the dam was at first to be finished in the shortest time
That leaves only a few months for archaeologists to complete their salvaging of the historical sites there and for them to record what they can before water will destroy the historical remains or make them inaccessible.
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