Rehabilitation and Conservation of Kahrez Water Systems in Iraqi Kurdistan

UNESCO is taking part in the rehabilitation of a millenary water management system in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kahrez is the Kurdish name of the ancient water conveyance and irrigation system that has had an important role in supplying drinking and irrigation water throughout history. At the foot of rocky hills, water is collected in underground canals and carried to neighboring fields, where it is drawn off by strategically located well shafts. Similar systems can be widely found in the arid areas known as “Qanat” in Iran, “Aflaj” in the Arabian Peninsula.

Unfortunately, the Kahrez systems have been neglected in the last decades, leaving the historical structure damaged and unsustainable. UNESCO Iraq is part of a team that is rehabilitating, restoring and cleaning parts of the traditional Kahrez system in the Kurdish Governorates. The project is being implemented in close collaboration with UNESCO’s International Center for Qanat and Hydraulic Studies (Yazd, Iran). Cleared Kahrez systems will not only provide significantly more water for drinking and farming but also preserve Iraqi Kurdistan historical and cultural values.

"Kharez in Kurdistan: Alarm bells of a regional groundwater crisis" - Part 1

"Kharez in Kurdistan: Alarm bells of a regional groundwater crisis" - Part 2

Rehabilitation and Conservation of Karez in Northern Governorates

A Karez documentary made in July 2009 as a collaboration between UNESCO and a Karez expert


This film by Joshka Wessels, Dutch filmmaker and Middle East karez expert, shows the amazing technology of karez water tunnel systems in northern Iraq. Thousands of years old, these tunnels have provided water to the dry areas in provinces of Erbil and Sulamaniya. In the film, Joshka joins Dale Lightfoot of Oklahoma State University during his survey in 2009. The team found more than 250 of Karezes still functioning. But alarmbells are ringing. In the past 4 years, the Kharez of Iraq have been drying up. After the harrowing history of the Al-Anfal campaign by Saddam Hussein, the recent regional droughts now forces people to abandon their ancient old villages because the water is finished. The drying karez indicate worse problems ahead and an eminent groundwater crisis. The film follows the preparation of UNESCO's restoration of a pilot site, Sheikh Mamudian, where the first rehabilitation supported by organization will take place.

Directed and filmed by Dr. Joshka Wessels, Sapiens Productions

Duration: 20 minutes




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