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Daryan Dam and its transboundary impacts, Iran


The Daryan Dam is a large dam currently under construction on the Sirwan River, located in Kermanshah Province of Iranian Kurdistan, 28.5 km from the Iraqi border. The government of Iran, who is promoting the project, says the dam is built for the purpose of producing hydroelectric power, as well as for irrigation purposes in southwestern Iran. The project is triggering transboundary conflict in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). A series of Iranian dams already exist on the river, which provide hydroelectric power in Iran, but restrict water flows to Iraq. Despite this, currently there is no agreement between Iraq and Iran with regards to the use of the Sirwan/Diyala River. Most of the rivers which run through the KRI emanate from Turkey or Iran, and the potential water crisis will be instigated by large-scale dams outside of the KRI’s borders coming on-stream, primarily the Daryan Dam in Iran, and to a lesser extent the Ilisu Dam in Turkey, both of which are nearing completion. In recent years, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) itself began constructing additional dams, which are viewed as a threat throughout the rest of Iraq. In Baghdad and Erbil alike, nationalist rhetoric is increasing, and water carries great potential to play a significant role in future disputes between the two governments. Controversially, though KRG politicians and civil activists are in opposition of the construction of dams on shared rivers in Turkey and Iran, they support the construction of dams in the KRI in order to control access to water resources flowing to Central and Southern Iraq.

To date, there is little literature available on the Daryan Dam, even though its impact on Iraq is huge. The Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign has  launched a report on the project from which we learn that there is lots of "controversial construction of dams for purposes of self-interest in a water scarce region despite evidence of their significant negative impact both locally, through displacement, and downstream, through reduced water flows" [1]. The report states that "between 20 to 30 percent of the Tigris River’s annual flow originates in Iran via the Sirwan River and the Alwand River. In recent years, Iranian water projects have greatly reduced water flows of the Alwand River, and the construction of the Daryan Dam located on the Sirwan River in Kermanshah Province of Iran will significantly affect water flows to Halabjah Governorate in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq" [1]. It further warns that "The Daryan Dam, which is expected to be completed in 2018, is predicted to reduce the water flows of the Sirwan River by up to 60 percent, which will affect hundreds of thousands of people in the Sulaymaniyah and Halabjah Governorates. Diminishing flows of rivers will cause a drinking water crisis and will heavily effect the agricultural, hydroelectric power and fishing sectors in the Kurdistan Region" [1]. It highlights that the reduced water flows of the Sirwan River, known as the Diyala River in Iraq, will also have significant negative impacts on people and communities further downstream in Central and Southern Iraq.  "According to statistics, more than 3,200 hectares of agricultural land in the areas of Halabjah, Sayyid Sadiq and Darbandikhan will be lost if water flows from Iran further decrease. According to KRG Member of Parliament Abdul-Rahman Ali, other small dams have been built by Iran on rivers that flow into to the Darbandikhan Dam in the KRI. With the completion of the Daryan Dam, the cities and villages of Halabjah, Sirwan, Said Sadiq and Darbandikhan will not only face water crises in the agricultural, hydroelectric power and fishing sectors, but also when it comes to drinking water." [1]. The report also warns about possible negative impact on the peaceful coexistence between the religious groups of the region, especially since water in Iran, a Shia Muslim area, will be withheld from the KRI, a Sunni Muslim area.

According to the report, the KRG and all walks of society in Halabjah Governorate, including political parties, civil society and NGOs, object to the construction of the Daryan Dam in Iran. Concerns are also related to the tragic past these cities have gone through during Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and during the war. The city of Halabjah, which suffered a chemical attack in 1988 under the regime of Saddam Hussein, considers the diversion of the Sirwan River to be another humanitarian crisis inflicted upon its inhabitants. Protests do not only happen on the Iraqi side; the Daryan Dam is also the subject of protest in Iran, mostly due to the forced relocations (the report talks of at least 20 villages and hundreds of people that have already been displaced in the Hawraman region of Iran) and ecological and cultural impact the reservoir will have on the surrounding area. Also at risk of destruction by the dam is the natural spring of Kanî Bil in the Hawraman region of Iranian Kurdistan, which is the largest spring in the region. To the Hawrami people, Kanî Bil is also of important cultural value. A social media campaign was created in December 2015 to save the spring of Kanî Bil. The “Save Kanî Bil Campaign” conducted a social media movement across Iranian Kurdistan, with people holding signs asking the government to save the spring, and some activists also went on hunger strike in December 2015.  Within the wider region, NGOs and civil society initiatives have been calling for the protection of water resources. For instance, in October 2014, several hundred villagers from the outskirts of the eastern IraqiKurdish town of Darbandikhan protested with the slogan, “We don’t trade water for oil.”

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Daryan Dam and its transboundary impacts, Iran
Country:Iran, Islamic Rep.
State or province:Kurdish Region of Iran and Iraq
Location of conflict:Kermanshah Province
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Water

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The dam is expected to produce 230 megawatts of electricity. In

addition, only 9.5 km from the Daryan Dam, the Iranian government is constructing a 47 km tunnel channel, known as the Nawsud water tunnel. Construction of the dam by Iranian company Farab Co. began in 20096 and is expected to be completed in 2018.

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:FARAB Water and Energy Projects (FARAB) from Iran, Islamic Rep.
Relevant government actors:Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
Kurdistan Region of Iraq government
Kurdistan Region of Iran government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign
Save Kanî Bil Campaign

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Local ejos
In 2011, workers on the project held a protest against unpaid wages [2]
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
The Save Kanî Bil Campaign released a statement from civil society demanding support for the strikers and actions to save the spring. In December 2015, a letter was sent to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, signed by more than 3,000 activists and public figures.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsImpact on the natural spring of Kani Bil, of great cultural value also
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:The Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign believe water is a resource that does not belong to any particular state, nation or sect. Water should not be used as a political weapon, and water scarcity need not be a cause of conflict. Rather, water can be used as a tool for sustainability, cooperation and coexistence between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and its riparian neighbors. Since 2012, the Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign has been advocating against the construction of Ilisu, Daryan and other large dams to preserve the cultural and environmental heritage of the Tigris River, and for the sustainable and equitable use of water for all
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:While there are protest, and international disputes, the project making progress.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Daryan Dam report. Report by Kamal Chomani and Toon Bijnens

Designed and Edited by Kira Walker. Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign 2016

[2] News on workers' strike (in Persian)

Daryan Dam Infographic

Iraqi Marshes workshop at the 3rd session of the Iraqi Social Forum

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Campaign Save Kani Bil natural spring

Call for collaboration on the implementation of UNESCO recommendations for the Iraqi Marshes!

Other comments:Most of this information is retrieved from the report "THE IMPACT OF THE DARYAN DAM ON THE KURDISTAN REGION OF IRAQ" For further information on the report, contact the campaign via: Toon Bijnens, [email protected], (English) Ismaeel Dawood. [email protected][mailto:[email protected]]

Meta information

Contributor:Daniela Del Bene, ICTA-UAB
Last update18/08/2019



View on the construction site