U.S. Water News Online
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian engineers began filling a new dam
recently as archaeologists warned its reservoir will flood newly
discovered antiquities and could damage Iran's grandest site, the
ancient Persian capital of Persepolis.
At the inauguration ceremony, attended by Energy Ministry
officials, valves were opened for water to start flowing into an
artificial lake created by the dam spanning the Sivand River, 520
miles south of the capital, Tehran. The lake's waters will be used to
irrigate the area's farms.
Iranian state-run television said the dam was opened "on the order
of the President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the Iranian leader did not
attend the inauguration.
The launch was delayed for months to give international
archaeological teams time to conduct excavations in the area of the
planned reservoir after an appeal from the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The work yielded significant discoveries such as a road believed
to be the Royal Passage of the Achaemenids, a powerful dynasty in
ancient Persia in the 6th century B.C., as well as an Achaemenid
village with a cemetery and inhabited caves dating back 7,000 years.
Iranian intellectuals and activists condemned the Tehran
government for going ahead with the dam, calling it a "stupidity."
Archaeologists say flooding from the dam will submerge the Royal
Passage, which linked Persepolis to Susa, two capital cities in
ancient Persia, as well as some of the 130 ancient sites along the
Tang-e-Bolaghi, a mountain path that crosses the Sivand River.
There are also concerns that humidity, spreading through
groundwater from the dam, could damage nearby Persepolis.
The sprawling ruins, Greek for "City of Persians," are famed for
the grand double stairway rising to a wide, terraced audience hall
with 72 columns. Sacked by Alexander the Great about 330 B.C., the
old city is visited by millions every year, mostly Iranians but also
Experts also worry about Pasargadae, an ancient capital built by
Cyrus the Great sometime after 550 B.C. that holds his tomb.
Both Persepolis and Pasargadae, only 19 miles and 5 miles away
from the dam, are on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.
Iran's Islamic-oriented government has not shown much concern for
cultural sites from the Persian era, unlike the country's more recent
The official IRNA news agency quoted Vice President Rahim Mashaei,
who is also head of Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization, as saying
the "opening of the Sivand Dam is no danger for Pasargadae" but did
not mention the Royal Passage or Persepolis.
Archaeologist Parviz Varjavand said "irreplaceable human heritage"
will be lost.
"This ruling establishment gives no value to Iran's cultural
heritage. It is an act of stupidity and obstinacy.
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