|This article is outdated. (August 2012)|
Sivand Dam was a planned dam in Fars Province, Iran. Named after the nearby town of Sivand located northwest of Shiraz, it has become the center of worldwide concern due to the flooding it will cause in historical and archaeologically rich areas of Ancient Persia and possible harm it may cause to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Persepolis and Pasargadae.
Planning and history
The Iranian government has planned Sivand Dam for over 10 years, with a location on the Polvar River in the Tangeh Bolaghi (Bolaghi Gorge) in between the ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae. Intended to allow irrigation in the arid region, the planning and initial site construction began in 1992, then was stopped for further planning and was reactivated in 2003.
For the first decade, much of the planning was not made public; Iran's own Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHO) was not aware of total area of flooding until 2003. When the intentions for the dam were made public, international concern was raised regarding damage to any archaeological sites, particularly the two World Heritage Sites. Rumors spread that the dam would place the two ruins underwater, spurring outcry and petitions of concerned experts and individuals. Scientists with the dam project dismissed the rumors outright and Iranian officials pointed some blame for the rumors on the political opposition parties from outside Iran. Iranian Ministry of Energy studies have placed the furthest reaches of the lake approximately 7 kilometers to south of the plain of Murqab that is 9 kilometers from Pasargadae and more than 70 kilometers to Persepolis.
However, Iranian officials from the Ministry of Energy and ICHO did acknowledge that the lake will flood 130 historical "remains" and invited international teams to help excavate the area before construction commenced. In 2004, the United Nations issued an urgent international appeal for archaeologists to join the domestic effort to unearth and record what they could before the flooding. Teams from Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, and the United States responded to the request for help.
One consequence of the dam's construction is an opportunity for extensive archaeological work in a historically rich area in a short amount of time. So far, the oldest sites the international teams have found are caves inhabited about 7,000 years ago. The archaeologists have uncovered a narrow 9-mile dirt road believed to be the Royal Passage of the Achaemenids, connecting the two ancient cities, that was in use until the 18th century.
The archaeological work has caused the construction schedule of Sivand Dam to be pushed back. The area was originally supposed to be flooded by end of February 2006, but the discovery of an Achaemenid era village and cemetery caused it to be delayed. Currently, the construction of the dam is estimated for November/December 2006 and/or until the international teams of archeologists announce that their excavations in the area are complete; the Iranian Ministry of Energy has agreed to halt the project if a "major site" is discovered.
Potential effects on Pasargadae
Besides the certain flooding of 130 archaeological sites, larger concern has been levied at the dam's effect on nearby World Heritage Sites, particularly Pasargadae, an ancient capital of the Persian Empire built by Cyrus the Great and the site of his tomb.
Experts involved with planning the dam deny this claim, noting that the site is well above and away from the eventual waterline. However, it is unknown how the dampness caused by the dam will affect the ruins. Archaeologists and scientists agree that the rise in humidity from the new lake will speed up the destruction of Pasargadae to some degree. Although no preliminary environmental research has been carried out to assess the effects of humidity upon the constructions at Pasargadae, the Ministry of Energy believes it could be compensated by controlling the water level of the dam reservoir.
- Date of Sivand Dam Inundation Not Yet Agreed Upon, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 29 May 2006, Accessed Sept. 15, 2006.
- Sivand Dam Waits for Excavations to be Finished, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 26 February 2006, Accessed Sept. 15, 2006.
- Sivand Dam’s Inundation Postponed for 6 Months, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 29 November 2005, Accessed Sept. 15, 2006.
- Nazila Fathi, A Rush to Excavate Ancient Iranian Sites, The New York Times, November 27, 2005; also accessible in full here.
- Ali Mousavi, Cyrus can rest in peace: Pasargadae and rumors about the dangers of Sivand Dam, Iranian.com, September 16, 2005
- Pasargadae Will Never Drown, Cultural Heritage News Agency, 12 September 2005, Accessed Sept. 15, 2006.
- Rémy Boucharlat, News from Pasargadae, ANE: DISCUSSION LIST FOR THE STUDY OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST, University of Chicago listerv, 29 Dec 2004, Accessed Sept. 15, 2006 (Boucharlat is now the head of the French archaeological team in the region).
- Ancient Pasargadae threatened by construction of dam, Mehr News Agency, 28 August 2004, Accessed Sept. 15, 2006
- Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (German Archaeological Institute), Iran: Darre-ye Bolāghi (in English).
- Kamyar Abdi, Sensationalism vs. Rationalism. The Sivand Dam: political sensationalism vs. archaeological rationalism, September 12, 2005, Iranian.com.
- Ali Mousavi, Cyrus can rest in peace. Pasargadae and rumors about the dangers of Sivand Dam, September 16, 2005, Iranian.com.