Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

Dam Building in Iran, 1995

In 1995 the Energy Ministry of Iran announced that Iran was building 30 large dams and that this was the second largest number of large dams being built in any country in the world.

While dam building in a generally arid country such as Iran is presumed to be a socially worthwhile activity, it is possible that the decisions to build dams did not take into account the opportunity costs for the capital required. In 1995 Iran was short of hard currency as a result of the debt serving requirements from past borrowing. In 1995 Iran's foreign debt was $20 billion. In 1994 the payments on the debt was rescheduled on $14 billion of that debt therebye reducing the payments from $3.5 billion to $1.9 billion.

The shortage of hard currency forced Iran to utilize Iranian nationals for the design and construction of the major projects such as dam building. Giving Iranian personnel the experience is desirable in the long run, but their starting out on megaprojects is probably not the best way to give them training experience, especially since the capital funds at the time might have had better alternative uses.

For an illustration of how in the past the design of a water development project could easily fall short of what was optimal for Iranian conditions see the Dez Multipurpose Water Development Project.

Some of the dams under construction in Iran in 1995, their locations and their characteristics were as follows:

Dams Being Built in Iran, 1995
Name of DamRiver(s)Dam
(miillions m3)
Zanjan Galleh & Taham 120 87
Kowsar 126 450
15th Khordad 200
GawshanGaweh 136
Karun-3 Karun205
Godar-e Landar
Karkeh Karkeh

Dams Being Built in Iran, 1995
Name of DamLocationGenerating
(billions riyals)
Zanjan Zanjan, 120
Kowsar 70 120
15th Khordad 0
Sefidbarg 0
Karun-3 Karun3000
Godar-e Landar
Karkeh ($700 m)

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