Throughout the arid regions of Iran, the ancient qanat system supported agricultural and permanent settlements. Which was of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys. And conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many kilometres. The eleven qanats representing this system include rest areas for workers, water reservoirs and watermills. The traditional communal management system still in place allows equitable and sustainable water sharing and distribution. The qanats provide exceptional testimony to cultural traditions and civilizations in desert areas with an arid climate.
Each qanat comprises an almost horizontal tunnel collecting water from an underground water source usually an alluvial fan into which a mother well sank to the appropriate level of the aquifer. Well shafts sank at regular intervals along the route of the tunnel to enable removal of spoil and allow ventilation.
These appear as craters from above, following the line of the qanat from water source to agricultural settlement. The water is transported along underground tunnels, so-called koshkan. By means of gravity due to the gentle slope of the tunnel to the exit (mazhar) from where it is distributed by channels to the agricultural land of the shareholders.
Qanat’s Sub Branches
Traditional methods calculated the levels, gradient and length of the qanat requiring the skills of experienced qanat workers and handed down over centuries. Many qanats have sub branches and water access corridors for maintenance purposes, as well as dependent structures. Including rest areas for the qanat workers, public and private hamams, reservoirs and watermills.
The Persian Qanat system is an exceptional testimony to the tradition of providing water to arid regions to support settlements. The technological and communal achievements of the qanats play a vital role of qanat in the formation of various civilizations. Its crucial importance for the larger arid region is expressed in the name of the desert plateau of Iran which is called “Qanat Civilisation”. Dispersion of primary settlements on alluvial fans of the inner plateau and deserts of Iran is immediately related with the distribution pattern of qanat system across the country. The system also presents an exceptional living cultural tradition of communal management of water resources.
The Persian Qanat system is an outstanding example of a technological ensemble illustrating significant stages in the history of human occupation of arid and semi-arid regions. Based on complex calculations and exceptional architectural qualities, water was collected and transported by mere gravity over long distances. And these transport systems were maintained over centuries and at times, millennia. The qanat system enabled settlements and agriculture but also inspired the creation of a desert-specific style of architecture and landscape involving not only the qanats themselves. But their associated structures, such as water reservoirs, mills, irrigation systems, and gardens.
The eleven qanats forming this property are still active water carriers and retained not only their architectural and technological structures but also their function. They continue to provide the essential resource water sustaining Iranian settlements. And gardens and remain maintained and managed through traditional communal management systems. These management systems remained intact and transferred from the distant past thanks to the collaboration of people and users.
Water Resources Protection
To ensure the continued functionality of the qanats, the water catchment areas included in the buffer zone. And committed to highest protection levels considering their essential function in the provision of the water resources. Likewise, the agricultural areas illustrating the distribution and use of the water resources protected through buffer zones to allow the full long-term protection of the qanat system.
The authenticity of the eleven qanats respected regarding design, technology, building materials, traditions, techniques, management systems. It was as well as intangible heritage associations based on knowledge of the natural environment, material technology and the indigenous culture. Qanats founded and constructed based on social collaboration, communal trust and honesty as well as common sense. Furthermore, their stability and functionality managed, preserved, expanded and developed based on such joint cooperation.
Protection and management requirements
The eleven qanats comprising this series included in the national register of monuments of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their catchment and irrigation areas included in specifically designed protective zones with status of buffer zones. The further elaboration and completion of an inventory of the eleven components will assist in monitoring and communicating the full scope of protected attributes.
ICHHTO National Qanat
A Steering Committee coordinated the overall management of the serial nomination comprising representatives of the Qanat Councils. Daily management concerns considered through the ICHHTO National Qanat Base which acts through ICHHTO’s provincial offices. A Management Strategy and Action Plan outlined at the time of nomination which further developed into management and maintenance plans for the individual components. These will include interpretation and tourism management plans as well as risk preparedness and disaster response strategies.
The Eleven Ghanats
Financial and technical means further supported the eleven qanats through national resources. And conservation and management measures at all qanats are underway respecting their authenticity and integrity