Ancient irrigation system of the Kingdom of Van

In the late 9th century BC, the Kingdom of Van, also known as Urartu, developed an impressive irrigation facility: a 72-kilometer water canal. Remarkably, this ancient feat of engineering, stretching four and a half meters wide and one and a half meters deep, continues to provide water for the vicinity of the city of Van even today.

From the vantage point of Van Rock, the rulers of the Kingdom of Van used to gaze at Lake Van as they emerged from their dwellings. A stream, the residue of water unused from the Menua Canal, meanders down to the lake.

The historical irrigation system of the Kingdom of Van is preserved in such excellent condition that, theoretically, it could be recommissioned even now. This ancient system was so meticulously designed and managed that water wastage was minimal if it occurred at all. Any residual water simply joined the flow into Lake Van.

Despite its preserved state, there are no plans to reactivate this ancient irrigation system, not due to any technical inadequacy, but rather due to the apparent lack of initiative by the current Armenian authorities in operating any irrigation system.

Ironically, in sharp contrast to ancient Armenia, water now flows wastefully past regions where it could be vital. This resource, instead of nourishing Armenian lands, finds its way into a neighboring republic. Adding to this series of paradoxes, the cost of irrigation water in neighboring republics like Georgia is significantly lower than in Armenia—twelve times lower to be precise. In monetary terms, it is a staggering difference: 5,000 drams compared to 60,000 drams. The response from officials has been unsatisfactory and confusing, providing little to no clarity on this issue.

Vigen Avetisyan

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