Applying ICOMOS-IFLA Principles for the Conservation, Management and Reuse of a Historical Hydraulic System: The No-Ras Qanat in North-Western Iran
1.1. Water as Power, Life and Heritage
1.2. Historical Hydraulic Systems as Landscape Heritage
1.3. Historical Hydraulic Systems and Climate Change: The Qanats/Kariz
1.4. Applying the ICOMOS-IFLA Guidelines for Documenting, Preserving and Reusing HHSs
2. Aims and Methods
2.1. Aims of the Research
2.3. Case Study: No-Ras Qanat in Northwestern Iran
3. Preserving, Managing and Reusing the No-Ras Qanat
- Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (MCHT): It is the educational and research body overseeing museums, archaeological sites and monuments throughout Iran. One of its branches, ICHHTO, is in charge of managing the qanat at the national and regional levels. Therefore, we believe that the MCHT will be essential for officially supporting the communication and promotion of the cultural value of the qanat at local, national and international scales. In addition to the overall supervision and approval of the activities related to the qanat restoration and reuse, the MCHT will have a primary role in raising awareness of the importance of the qanat (Group of activities 5) and its relevance as heritage (Group of activities 6).
- Regional Water and Wastewater Treatment Company (RWWTC): It is a national organization with numerous regional offices in charge of monitoring and developing water and wastewater grids and monitoring the status of urban wastewater treatment systems. They will be involved in restoration and reuse (Group of activities 1), development of efficient management strategies (Group of activities 2) and training (Group of activities 3).
- Regional Agricultural Jihad Organization (RAJO): This organization is also in charge of dredging, repairing, reconstructing and developing the Qanat. While their contribution will be crucial over the entire process, together with the RWWTC, they will be mostly involved in restoration and reuse (Group of activities 1), development of efficient management strategies (Group of activities 2) and training (Group of activities 3).
- Municipalities: The municipalities of both Tabriz and the village of Chavan represent an important connection between the local communities and the national and regional institutions. They can act as a bridge, facilitating the smooth and clear implementation of the procedures. In our case, based on the recommendations, we believe that they will be important for developing the qanat management protocol (Group of activities 1) for the development of efficient management strategies (Group of activities 2) as well as for contributing to raising awareness of the importance of the qanat (Group of action 4).
- University: The main research institution of the region is the University of Tabriz. It is one of the most important academic institutions in the country with a wide range of specializations, including agriculture, economy, architecture, engineering and history. Therefore, they can be of the greatest support for finding modern technological sustainable solutions for the qanat restoration (Group of activities 1) as well as for contributing to raising awareness on the importance of the qanat (Group of action 4) and its relevance as heritage (Group of activities 5).
- Local farmers: These include native people and old immigrants, especially those living in the village of Chavan and Fath Abad, whose main jobs are related to farming, gardening and animal husbandry. They have a good understanding of the value of qanats, which they have extensively used for the irrigation of cultivated lands and gardens as well as for supplying water to their livestock. Their commitment towards the preservation of the qanat is very strong and includes the organization of protests against the heavy damage caused by the sand and gravel mine . Although actively involved in all phases of the project, their qualities will make them important actors to train new professional figures (Group of activities 3) and to raise awareness on the multi-perspective relevance of the qanat (Group of action 4), including heritage (Group of activities 5).
- Local farmers: As beneficiaries, they will benefit from all activities related to water shortage mitigation (Group of activities 1), mismanagement (Group of activities 2) and loss of technical skills (Group of activities 3).
- New moqannis and other practitioners working in/for the qanat: They include the craftsmen specialized in the construction and maintenance of the qanats. The work of the moqanni is usually inherited from father to son or continued among family members . While receiving benefits from all the activities foreseen, they will particularly profit from those related to mismanagement (Group of activities 2) and loss of technical skills (Group of activities 3).
- Local community: Primarily consisting of the people who live around the Chavan village along the qanat, down to the Tabriz suburbs. Although they will also benefit over the long term from group of activities 1–3, we plan to help them improving their awareness towards the economic benefits and the environmental value of the No-Ras qanat (Group of activities 4), together with the heritage value (Group of activities 5).
3.3.1. Group of Activities 1
- Assessment of costs and benefits of the current hydraulic infrastructures. This type of analysis must be conducted by the RWWTC, RAJO and the local Municipality in collaboration with the local farmers, who also represent the final beneficiaries. There are currently several approaches to assessing similar situations. Among those, both cost–benefit analysis (CBA) and cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) are increasingly applied to archaeological sites, monuments and other heritage places [70,71], while Contingent Valuation (CV) may help in estimating the expected benefits from the qanat for the local residents .
- Planning and implementing preservation and enhancement. The first step regards stopping or modifying all those activities, potentially directly or indirectly, damaging the qanat located within the 15 m buffer zone and, therefore, non-compliant with Iranian law for the protection of cultural heritage as well as the UNESCO regulation for WHS in Iran (Figure 3 and Figure 4). To this end, the qanat area was divided into five sectors, three of which are characterized by a specific type of threat. The upstream sector, defined as “Upstream agricultural fields”, does not present immediate risks, although restoration activities of the qanat structure are necessary. Moving towards the valley, the second sector (Figure 4D) corresponds to the northern part of the village of Chavan. Here, 80 buildings are located within the 15 m buffer zone. The majority of buildings include small residential units (22%) or non-used/abandoned ones (30%), while only 7% consist of small-scale industrial complexes. The third sector (Figure 4C) is the one threatened by the mining area, while in the fourth one, the main issues are represented by the railway (Figure 4A) and gas pipeline (Figure 4B) and their debris. While we acknowledge the difficulty of moving a railway and the pipeline, it would be advisable to lift it, thus, making a bridge over the qanat path, so as to substantially reduce the vibrations and pressure caused by trains. The same could be for the pipeline. At the same time, to reduce the number of small vehicles, we suggest an increase in public transport connections between Tabriz and Chavan. This would also facilitate the people living outside the qanat area to easily visit and enjoy it.
Target Activities for the Upstream Agricultural Area
Target Activities for the Sector Occupied by the Chavan Village
Target Activities for the Sector Occupied by the Mining Area
Target Activities for the Sector Occupied by the Railway and Pipeline
- Development of a water management plan for the No-Ras qanat. This type of analysis must be conducted by the RWWTC, RAJO and the local Municipality in collaboration with local farmers, representing also the final beneficiaries. A good reference for drafting an efficient plan are the State of Conservation Reports [69,80], issued by ICHHTO and UNESCO for the current qanat included in the World Heritage List . This could be integrated with the documentation from the qanat systems of Kashan and Gonabad (both in Iran), which are part of the GIAHS network [82,83].
3.3.2. Group of Activities 2
- Creation of an association/council for managing the No-Ras qanat. Following the example of “The Persian Qanat” UNESCO WHS , we proposed the creation of a Council of the No-Ras Qanat. This body is crucial for the daily management of the qanat (while the ICHHTO manages then at the national and regional level, see above), also acting as a bridge between the local, national and regional authorities and the community, including the farmers. Furthermore, the creation of a Council represents the first stage of ATN named Enrolment , which is essential to strengthening the network of actors. According to the national law (Articles 17 and 106) and other reports  and research , the council structure should be composed of 5–7 members and can be “headed by the qanat council manager (mirab) and comprising the water clock operator (kayyal), the accountant (hesabdar), together with other qanat workers generally termed moqannis and another specialists such as the bucket operator and the windglass operator”. We suggest following this example, also including the representative of the local farmers and the municipality of Chavan and Tabriz to increase inclusiveness in decision-making.
3.3.3. Group of Activities 3
- Training courses for moqannis and professional figures working in the qanat. To this end, the Council of the No-Ras Qanat will evaluate be necessary for hiring new moqannis or other specific jobs related to the conservation and management of the qanat. If so, training sessions supported by the Municipality (for the economic support and the bureaucratic aspects) and the local university (for the details about the qanat engineering and heritage aspects) will be organized.
- Investing in non-invasive sustainable technologies to improve qanat efficiency. The importance of integrating modern non-invasive and sustainable technologies in ancient structures and systems, such as the qanats, has been recently emphasized by the European Union by promoting “Research and Innovation Actions” within the Horizon Europe program for reusing and improving traditional heritage crafts and systems.4 The technological improvements that could be applied to the qanats are many and, here, we provide some examples. One of them is satellite imagery, a valuable and user-friendly tool for monitoring the state of conservation of the wells when access to them is prevented (i.e., during conflicts, natural disasters or pandemics) [61,86,87]. The growing availability of open access imagery makes them more accessible and usable for everyone. Moreover, numerous researchers developed methodologies to identify and document endangered qanats [49,88,89]. Another example regards internal damage and stability that may be evaluated and mitigated through the construction of low-weight structures, spread and pile foundations or retrofitting (e.g., load decreasing, load-bearing columns and walls and load-diverting arches) [90,91]. One final solution is to keep the secondary road unpaved to avoid further spread of tarmac, using bio-enzyme products, such as Perma-Zyme, Terra-Zyme, or Fujibeton, which guarantee soil stability and the long-term durability of the unpaved road. These are economic and environmentally friendly solutions that have been extensively employed in countries, such as India , Egypt  and Australia . The improvement in the current road plan will allow for a faster and simpler connection to the center of Chavan with Tabriz and the neighborhood village.
3.3.4. Group of Activities 4
- Organizing visits to the qanat for children, families, schools, etc. The involvement of the local population in conservation, management and reuse activities to raise awareness on heritage and foster interconnection between urban and rural landscapes is widely recognized [88,89]. In our case, we suggest that the new-born Council of the No-Ras should work together with the different actors, including the local university, farmers and the municipality of Chavan, to organize visits to the qanat and events targeting schools and families and other members of the Chavan and Tabriz community. This activity also matches action D.2.
- Developing signals and panels. To ensure understanding and use of the qanat by the local community, the Council of the No-Ras should collaborate with the University of Tabriz to design information panels about the history of the qanat and its benefits for agriculture, livestock, drinking water and the sustainability of qanats, compared to modern water systems, such as dams or hydro-pumping machines. This type of activity is linked to the transversal ones in response to Action B.3 in group of activities 1.
- Organizing conferences and meetings. In addition to the visits to the qanat expected for meeting the requirements of Action C.4, the council of the No-Ras qanat will work together with the local university and the municipalities of Chavan and Tabriz to organize conferences and other public events. These types of activities will serve for communicating and raising awareness on the historical, cultural and environmental value as well as the economic benefits of the qanat.
- Creating webpages and other online tools. Over the last few decades, the use of social media and websites to communicate the importance of cultural and natural heritage has jumped to the top of the agendas of many institutions and projects [93,94]. These media are particularly effective for sharing content with children and teenagers, meaning future generations that will be in charge of the conservation, management and use of the qanat. Therefore, the Council of the No-Ras qanat should hire a social media and website developer and manager to create the No-Ras qanat website and social media accounts. These will also be relevant for advertising other activities connected to group of activities 4, such as conferences, events and visits to the qanat, as well as group of activities 3, such as training and job offers.
3.3.5. Group of Activities 5
- Scientific research on the history of the qanat. Researchers from the local university will coordinate a historical analysis on the No-Ras qanat. This multidisciplinary activity encompasses a number of different approaches for reconstructing the development of the qanat and its landscape. These include the use of historical archival documents about territorial management (e.g., cadasters or military maps) [95,96,97], spaceborne and airborne historical and contemporary imagery of the area [36,98], archaeological and geoarchaeological survey (including palaeobotanic analysis) [99,100,101] and community-based documentation and mapping [102,103,104].
- Interviews to collect oral history. This type of activity is tightly related to the above-mentioned approaches. It can enrich the quality and quantity of information collected for the historical analysis of the No-Ras qanat, as well as strengthening the sense of belonging towards the place by local people . This type of research is generally conducted by university researchers targeting local communities (mostly elders) as well as members of the council of the No-Ras qanat and local farmers. These stories may be shared with the rest of the community through events, conferences as well as online tools (see Group of activities 4).
4.1. Potential Limits and Counteractions
4.2. Qanat as Moral Heritage
- Raise awareness among communities at any level on the preservation of their past and cultural origins, thus, meeting the requests of SDG 11.4.
- Create a new sustainable economic resource passed down from the past to the present through interactive activities, thus, contributing to reach SDG 4 (lifelong learning).
- To preserve and reuse an environmentally friendly system that could, at least partially, replace the existing polluting solutions (i.e., dam and other modern infrastructures). This last point is nowadays at the top of the agenda of numerous national and international institutions and it matches SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG13 (Climate action).
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|(1) Mitigate water shortage||Local institutions promoting assessments to compare the cost/benefits of modern hydraulic infrastructure and qanats |
If qanats result in a successful water supply, develop a collaborative and sustainable water management plan
|B.3 Defining strategies and actions for dynamic conservation, repair, innovation, adaptive transformation, maintenance, and long-term management |
C.5 Finding a balance between long-term conservation and short-term needs
|Assessment of cost/benefits of the current hydraulic infrastructures (B.3) |
Planning and implementing conservation and enhancement activities (B.3)
Development of a water management plan (C.5)
|(2) Mis-management and/or |
lack of document
|Constant monitoring and application of damage assessments by public and/or private research institutes||A.5 Developing knowledge to enable comparison of rural landscapes at all levels |
B.6 Preparing monitoring strategies
|Creation of an association/council for managing and monitoring the No-Ras qanat (A.5 and B.6)||RWWTC |
|Local farmers |
Moqannis and other professionals working in/for the qanat
|(3) Loss of technical skills||Joint collaboration between local farmers, Regional Agricultural Jihad Organization, and external moqannis for keeping the knowledge||A.6 Recognizing local populations as knowledge holders |
B.4 Consider economic, social, and environmental values
C.2 Recognizing key stakeholders for rural landscapes, including rural inhabitants
|Training courses for moqannis and professional figures working in the qanat (A.6 and C.2) |
Investment in non-invasive sustainable technologies to improve qanat efficiency (B.4)
Council of No-Ras qanat
|New moqannis and other professionals working in/for the qanat|
|(4) Lack of awareness||Increasing the synergy between universities and local farmers, possibly with the support of the government, in creating projects and associations for the protection and communication of the importance of qanat||C.4 Considering interconnections between landscapes |
D.1 Communicating awareness
D.2 Increasing awareness
|Developing signals and panels (D.1-2) |
Organizing visits to the qanat for children, families, schools, etc. (D.1-2)
Organizing conferences and meetings (D.2, C.4)
Creating webpages and other online tools (D.1-2)
Council of No-Ras qanat
|(5) Qanat as a heritage||Collecting info about the history of the qanat |
Applying different communication strategies
Involve local communities in conservation activities
|A.4 Inventory and catalogue rural landscapes at all scales |
A.7 Promoting cooperation for research
D.3 Supporting shared learning, training, and research
|Scientific research on the history of the qanat |
(A.4, A.7, D.3)
Interviews to collect oral history (A.7, D.3)
Council of No-Ras qanat
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Zaina, F.; Branduini, P.; Zavvari, F. Applying ICOMOS-IFLA Principles for the Conservation, Management and Reuse of a Historical Hydraulic System: The No-Ras Qanat in North-Western Iran. Heritage 2022, 5, 3165-3187. https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage5040163
Zaina F, Branduini P, Zavvari F. Applying ICOMOS-IFLA Principles for the Conservation, Management and Reuse of a Historical Hydraulic System: The No-Ras Qanat in North-Western Iran. Heritage. 2022; 5(4):3165-3187. https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage5040163Chicago/Turabian Style
Zaina, Federico, Paola Branduini, and Fereshteh Zavvari. 2022. "Applying ICOMOS-IFLA Principles for the Conservation, Management and Reuse of a Historical Hydraulic System: The No-Ras Qanat in North-Western Iran" Heritage 5, no. 4: 3165-3187. https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage5040163