Monday, August 02, 2004

Qanat: Ancient Waterways resurrected

Joshka Wessels, who heads the Swiss funded qanat renovation project in Syria and is an applied anthropologist, has just joined the's email list.

I have been following articles about the Qanat in Syria for some time, and this gives me an excuse to link to some of the fascinating work that has been put on line. A nice article about the restoration of “qanats” - underground tunnels that tap groundwater and direct it to towns and agricultural land - can be found here. The Swiss, Dutch and German project to restore the tunnels in Qara, a town of 20,000 people about an hour outside the capital, Damascus. “This is a very sustainable system of using groundwater because it doesn’t use mechanical means, and it basically relies on gravity and on the natural flow of water,” said Joshka Wessels, head of the qanat renovation project in Syria. There are hundreds of miles of qanats throughout the Middle East but many have fallen into disuse in recent years.

3,000 years old
The technology – which is believed to have originated in Iran more than 3,000 years ago – has been largely abandoned in favour of wells and the use of motor pumps to extract water. But pumping is a short-term solution that creates a long-term problem – the drying up of groundwater due to over-pumping. Here is a fine short history of the Qanat in Syria by Dale R. Lightfoot, a fellow Oklahoman! There are also wonderful photos of Qanat in Syria taken by Joshka and drawings of how they work, where they are and other good-to-know tid-bits. Welcome Joshka Wessels.


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