Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2018, 09:02 GMT

Iran: Information on the construction of the Karkheh dam; when it began and ended; role played by the Revolutionary Guards Corps (Sepah, Pasdaran) in construction; companies and agencies involved in its management; size of the workforce; recruitment of workforce; reports of individuals denouncing flaws in the dam

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 29 July 2003
Citation / Document Symbol IRN41818.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iran: Information on the construction of the Karkheh dam; when it began and ended; role played by the Revolutionary Guards Corps (Sepah, Pasdaran) in construction; companies and agencies involved in its management; size of the workforce; recruitment of workforce; reports of individuals denouncing flaws in the dam, 29 July 2003, IRN41818.E, available at: [accessed 13 December 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Karkheh Storage Dam and Hydroelectrical Power Plant is located on the Karkheh river in the province of Khusestan, near the city of Andimeshk (GeoWatch Mar. 2003, 2; IRNA 25 Feb. 1992; MEED 7 Oct. 1994). The project is owned by the Iran Water and Power Resources Development Company (IWPC) (GeoWatch Mar. 2003, 2), which is affiliated with the Iranian Ministry of Energy (KSDHPP n.d.b.).

Although studies on dam construction began in 1956 and continued throughout the pre- and post-revolution period, the final design study was completed in 1989 (WPDC 31 Jan. 2003). The engineering division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) began construction on 25 February 1992 (IRNA 25 Feb. 1992). In 1994, the Iranian Ministry of Energy contracted the IRGC's engineering corps to begin building the dam structure (Reuters 26 Sept. 1994; ibid. 28 Sept. 1994; MEED 7 Oct. 1994; ICCIM Apr. 1998). Over the duration of its construction, "120 contractual and over eight consultative companies as well as a number of firms affiliated to the Ministry of Energy" and the IRGC were commissioned to work on the project (IRNA 19 Apr. 2001b). Government ministries involved included the engineering department of the Iranian Defence Ministry (IRNA 2 June 2003), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Consturction Jihad and the Ministry of Energy (ibid. 19 Apr. 2001a).

According to the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran (VIRI), the IRGC had completed the Karkheh dam project by May 2000 (20 May 2000); however, a second report noted that it was not until February 2001 that the dam structure was finalized (WPDC 31 Jan. 2003). Iranian President Khatami inaugurated the dam in an official ceremony on 19 April 2001 (IRNA 19 Apr. 2001a; ibid. 19 Apr. 2001b), whereafter it became operational on 14 August 2002 (KSDHPP n.d.a.), and the first of its electric generating turbines was commissioned in September 2002 (WPDC 31 Jan. 2003).

The Research Directorate was unable to find details concerning the recruitment process for employees of the Karkheh Dam construction project, beyond identifying them as an Iranian workforce (KSDHPP n.d.a). A CNN transcript refers to 5,000 men working on the construction project over a ten-year period (17 June 2001). Forty employees lost their lives during the construction period (IRNA 19 Apr. 2001a). In 2001, the completion of the dam meant that 2,000 construction employees were laid off from work (Iran Daily 30 Apr. 2001).

The Research Directorate did not find reports of individuals criticizing or denouncing the design or construction of the dam among the sources consulted. Several official reports during the inauguration of the dam hailed the project as evidence of the "efficiency, talent and capability of the Iranian youth" (IRNA 19 Apr. 2001a), and "the high level of proficiency in dam-construction which Iran has attained" (ibid. 19 Apr. 2001b). An Iran Daily report from 2001 noted that a judicial committee on corruption cited the Karkheh Dam project as an example of official corruption in business (1 July 2001). In 2000, a Hamshahri newspaper article argued that the water collected by the dam could not be used for local agriculture because of the quality of the land in the region and the lack of adequate water distribution networks (18 Dec. 2000). The article concluded that the water either had to be sold or risked evaporation (Hamshahri 18 Dec. 2000).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


CNN. 17 June 2001. Mahmoud Ahmadi. "New Dam Hopes to Reduce Seasonal Flooding in Iran." (Transcript) [Accessed 24 July 2003]

GeoSIG Ltd. [Glattbrugg, Switzerland]. March 2003. GeoWatch. No. 18. "Seismic Instrumentation Network for Karkheh Dam, Iran." [Accessed 24 July 2003]

Hamshahri [Tehran, in Persian]. 5 December 2000. "Newspaper Justifies Sale of Water to Kuwait." (BBC Monitoring 18 Dec. 2000/Dialog)

Iran Daily [Tehran]. 1 July 2001. "‘Media Monitor' Feature for 1 July." (Dialog)

_____. 30 April 2001. "Irani Daily Carries ‘What's Up?' Column for 30 Apr." (Dialog)

Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). 2 June 2003. "Iran's Defense Ministry to Set Up Dam in Golestan Province." (FBIS-NES-2003-0602 3 June 2003/Dialog)

_____. 19 April 2001a. "Iran: President Inaugurates Largest Dam in Khuzestan." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)

_____. 19 April 2001b. "Iran: President Khatami Inaugurates Dam in Khuzestan." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)

_____. 25 February 1992. "Construction of Country's Largest Dam Begins." (BBC Summary/NEXIS)

Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines (ICCIM) Nameye Otaq-e Bazargani. April 1998. No. 2. Saeed Entesari. "Key Sectors of Economy." (Iran Virtual Library) [Accessed 24 July 2003]

Karkheh Storage Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant (KSDHPP). n.d.a. "The Inauguration of Karkheh Dam and Hydro-Electric Power Plant." [Accessed 22 July 2003]

_____. n.d.b. "About IWPC." [Accessed 22 July 2003]

Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) [London]. 7 October 1994. "Iran: Dam Project Goes to Revolutionary Guards." (Quest Economics Database/NEXIS)

Reuters. 28 September 1994. "Iran to Let Defence Ministry Go into Business." (Iran-News List Service) [Accessed 24 July 2003]

_____. 26 September 1994. "Iran Gives Dam Project to Revolutionary Guards." (Iran-News List Service) [Accessed 24 July 2003]

Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran (VIRI) [Tehran, in Persian]. 20 May 2000. "Iran: Over 1,300 Projects Being Implemented by Revolutionary Guards Corps." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)

Water Power and Dam Construction (WPDC) [London]. 31 January 2003. Vol. 55, No. 1. Mir Mohammed Sadegi. "Iran: Planning and Projects; Creating Karkheh." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases



Internet sites, including:

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

Country Reports (1994-1998)

Electronic Journal of Geotechnical Engineering

Google News

Iranian Committee on Large Dams (IRCOLD)

Islamic Republic of Iran, Ministry of Energy


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

Salam Iran

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld