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World Heritage Convention

Decision 40 COM 8B.21
Examination of nominations of cultural properties to the World Heritage List

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/16/40.COM/8B and WHC/16/40.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes The Persian Qanat, Islamic Republic of Iran, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii) and (iv);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Throughout the arid regions of Iran, agricultural and permanent settlements are supported by the ancient qanat system of tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting the water along underground tunnels by gravity, often over many kilometres. Shaft wells providing access and ventilation to the tunnels appear as craters from above, following the line of the qanat from water source to agricultural settlement. The eleven qanats representing this system include rest areas for the workers, water reservoirs and watermills. The traditional communal management system still in place allows equitable and sustainable water sharing and distribution.

    Criterion (iii): The Persian Qanat form a historical stratigraphy of past achievements and historical solutions. The vital role of qanat in the formation of various civilisations is so expansive that the basis of civilisation in the desert plateau of Iran has been called “Qanat (or Kariz) Civilisation”. Dispersion of primary settlements on alluvial fans of the inner plateau, desert margins and kavirs (deserts) of Iran has an intimate relation with the distribution pattern of qanat system.

    Criterion (iv): The Persian Qanat is an outstanding example of a technological ensemble illustrating significant stages in the history of human occupation of arid and semi-arid regions in the world. It is the cornerstone of prosperity in desert towns and villages. In arid and semi-arid regions, it has resulted in the creation of a desert style architecture and landscape involving not only the qanats themselves, but also associated structures, such as water reservoirs, water mills, irrigation systems, outstanding desert gardens, as well as urban and rural desert architecture.


    All the selected qanats are still forceful, active and are being used publicly from a functional perspective and has also fully been maintained the integrity of their elements from a physical and structural perspective. 

    Survival of qanats throughout centuries is the result of a traditional management system which has remained intact and has been transferred from distant past thanks to the collaboration of people and users. The system has served as a key factor for keeping the integrity of qanats.


    The authenticity of the eleven qanats has been respected regarding design, technology, building materials, traditions, techniques, management systems, setting as well as intangible heritage aspects based on the science of restoration, natural environment and the indigenous culture.  Qanats have been founded and constructed based on social collaboration, communal trust and honesty as well as common sense. Furthermore, their stability and authenticity has been managed, preserved, expanded and developed based on such joint cooperation.

    Protection and management requirements

    Traditional management of qanats has a unique value because it has preserved the historical knowledge of generations. This system has been set up by owners, exploiters and ordinary people and has developed and evolved with the passage of time which has made qanats survive until today.

    The eleven qanats are managed under the individual traditional supervision of qanat council. Each qanat has its local qanat council from its region.

    All qanats are under integrated financial and technical supports and at present, conservation and management of all qanats are underway respecting their authenticity and integrity and aiming at conserving universal prominent values of The Persian Qanat

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. collecting data related to each qanat in the regional offices of ICHHTO and making it accessible to members of the local communities,
    2. extending the management strategy and plans to include a risk preparedness strategy and a comprehensive tourism strategy for all property components,
    3. extending the monitoring system to identify the responsible authority for each key indicator,
    4. permanently marking the boundaries of property components and buffer zones on the ground;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2017 a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
Decision Code
40 COM 8B.21
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
Properties 1
Report of the Decisions adopted during the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016)
Context of Decision