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the past major, cities and civilisations depended on underground water tunnels.
Without their sustainable water supply, cities like
the summer of 2000, a small group of Syrian villagers living near the borders
of the steppe Southeast of the Northern City of Aleppo renovated and cleaned
their only water source with international help from
WHAT ARE QANATS ????
Qanats are underground
tunnels that tap the groundwater and lead the water artificially to a human
settlement and agricultural lands using gravity flow conditions. The tunnels
can be many kilometres long and very deep. The longest qanat is more
than 40 kilometres long and 100 meter deep and can be found in
In Iran, Qanats are scattered throughout the landscape and some are still used to provide water to turn a wheat mill. Qanat digging is a profession that is dying out. In 1975, the last qanat was dug in Iran. There are only 40 traditional qanat diggers left in Iran. Qanats are not dug anymore because of the dangers that accompany the digging. Lot of traditional qanat diggers died during the construction of these tunnels.
From Persia the technique was exported to neighbouring countries. Through contacts between Persians and other people like the Greek and Romans, the technique spread further east and westwards. The Byzantine and Arabs continued to use and re-use the technique. Nowadays, qanats can be found in Japan, China, Central Asia, and Pakistan ranging until North North Africa, Spain and finally South America. In general Qanats are only found in dry areas. In the Arab World, the ancient tunnels systems can be found from Iraq until Morocco and from Syria until Oman.
In May 2002, UNESCO declared that traditional water conveyance systems, such as qanats, are international cultural heritage and therefore should be protected worldwide. International Scientists from various backgrounds that are presently working on underground water tunnels, came together during this Second International Conference on Qanats organised by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources in Oman. During the First International Conference on Qanats, held in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2000 by UNESCO and the Yazd Water Authority, one of the main recommendations was the establishment of the Regional Centre for Water Management in Tehran. This centre will be an excellent opportunity for qanat scientists to share experience and find sources of study.
Hopefully in these times of upcoming groundwater shortages, especially in the Middle East, more concrete steps will be undertaken to save the remaining qanats for the future. The everlasting problem is to make a choice between the short-term solution of individual pumping and the long-term solution of maintaining and repairing old traditional qanat systems. The reviving of qanats requires in most cases the closing down of pumps, reorganisation of the farmers’ community and strong institutional support.