Qanats (also called kariz, lyoun, aflaj) are underground galleries that tap and continously convey groundwater and have been employed since very ancient times. Qanats have proved to be an extraordinarily valuable and sustainable traditional technology, which throughout the historical ages has been transferred from ancient Persia where it originated to numerous countries all over the world, particularly those with arid and semi-arid climates.
In June 2002, the fifteenth session of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme welcomed the proposal of creating an international centre on qanats in Yazd, Islamic Republic of Iran, recognizing the potential role of the Centre in raising awareness and helping the preservation of this admirable historical heritage. In fulfilment of the recommendations of the fifteenth session of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) Intergovernmental Council, a UNESCO mission was undertaken to Iran by the Secretary of IHP, followed by a mission undertaken by the Director of the UNESCO Office in Tehran to discuss the centre with the Iranian authorities and assess the prevailing conditions for the creation of the Centre. Their conclusions were extremely positive.
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