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Iran artist puts spotlight on water shortage through music | News





Images of glowing light danced to a slow electronic beat, as an indistinguishable instrument radiated sound resembling flowing water.

No more than a hundred people sat down in the darkened cavern in the northwest Iranian city of Qazvin, while listening to the tune played by electronic musician, Saba Alizadeh, who came up with the idea to highlight the ongoing water shortage in Iran. 

A century ago, it would have been impossible for the artist to entertain his audience there. The facility, common across pre-modern Iran, was originally built to store drinking water underground for local residents in Qazvin, 140km northwest of capital, Tehran.

But for years now, most of these reservoirs have dried up turning the structures into relics of Iran’s past.

The brick-lined water reservoir, known as Ab-Anbar in the Persian language, is covered with a dome, protecting the stored water from evaporation and contamination. It is connected to a wind tower, known as badgir, which serves as a natural cooler of the water inside.

Iran: Drought epidemic fuels water crisis

These reservoirs were so important to life, particularly in the desert areas, that they became integrated into communities in arid regions of the country.

Alizadeh, the musician, saw an opportunity to revisit these architectural icons, in an effort to raise awareness about the country’s water crisis.

“Metaphorically speaking, the concerts were a recollection of the water that did not exist there in the reservoirs anymore,” Alizadeh told Al Jazeera.

“It is supposed to sound the alarm, reminding Iranians that in a place which used to be a depot for water, now there is only dirt.”

Recently, the research arm of the Iranian parliament warned that water shortage in the country could lead to social discontent. It added that by 2020, up to 80 percent of Iran’s more than 80 million people could face water scarcity.

‘Elegy for water’

So far, Alizadeh has performed his show, ‘Elegy for Water’ at reservoirs in the cities of Qazvin, Kerman and Shiraz. The 35-year-old musician plans to do more events in Kashan, Yazd and Isfahan, cities that in recent years have faced water shortages.

The underground reservoir were used to store drinking water during pre-modern Iran [Erfan Dadkhah/Al Jazeera]

The water problem in these major cities has been exacerbated by poor infrastructures and government policies.

About 35 million Iranians, a little less than half of the total population, living across 334 cities faced water shortage during the summer of 2018, according to Iran’s Minister of Energy Reza Ardakanian.  

Lack of awareness about the issue has further added to the problem.

“We are facing a severe drought… We don’t seem to pay attention to the things that are happening in this regard,” Alizadeh said.

“Perhaps this tour could be a very small gesture to remind people of water; so that they could appreciate it a bit more,” he said, referring to the wastage of water in the country.

Alizadeh came up with the idea of the musical piece in 2012, when he started to study music in California Institute for Arts, after he finished his bachelor’s degree in photography in Iran. It was only much later, when he decided to perform the piece at dried-up cisterns to highlight growing water problem. 

Fusing music and religion

The musician uses Zanjeer – which is made of small chains hanging off a wooden handle – as a source for musical notes.

A dome protects the brick-lined water reservoir from evaporation and contamination [Erfan Dadkhah/Al Jazeera]


Zanjeer is mostly used during annual Ashura commemorations by Shias, who hit their bodies with the object to mourn the death of their third Imam.

Alizadeh installed a microphone at the end of Zanjeer’s handle to capture the granular sound made by the movement of the chains.

The rattling of the chains is then processed by a computer to become a sound that is reminiscent of that of flowing water.

“I wrote the harmonies within the sound of the water,” he explained.

The initial piece was completed with an overture that he wrote recently, turning ‘Elegy for Water’ into a 40-45 minutes long music.

‘Nailed to my chair’

The performance includes visuals created by artist Siavash Naghshbandi, who collaborated on the project. The images were an artistic perception of the reflections of water. They were projected on the walls of the water cisterns.

The musician uses Zanjeer, a chain used during Shia religious rites, as a musical instrument [Erfan Dadkhah/Al Jazeera]

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Naghshbandi referred to the “mysterious” quality of the forms that the flow of the water creates; as well as the irony of watching those visuals in a dried-up cistern.

“The images were projected on the ceiling. It was as if you saw the reflections of the water when you take a look above, knowing there is no water in the reservoir,” he said.

What can be done to ensure food security and preserve water resources?

Roshanka Sajadian, a Tehran-based architect, took a two-hour road trip to Qazvin to watch the show.

“The combination of the concept, the music and the location turned this into a curious event,” she told Al Jazeera.

“It was as if I was nailed to my chair, wiping tears off my face as the music rose to a crescendo.”

Andreas Spechtl, an Austrian musician who collaborated with Alizadeh on the project, told Al Jazeera that the artist is “mourning the loss of water, while treating a highly traditional and religious device, Zanjeer, as an electronic instrument.”

“One could call it conceptual art. But it’s not that easy, because there are no answers and no great solutions in his work. He is not making a big case. No. He’s now and then dropping a question. And that’s the noblest thing you can say about art.”


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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers





Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border





Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose





OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.


  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent


  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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