Economy, Domestic Economy

Dry Lake Urmia Taking Toll on Agriculture

Dry Lake Urmia Taking Toll on AgricultureDry Lake Urmia Taking Toll on Agriculture

The climatic change in the region of Lake Urmia and a consequent drought has taken its toll on numerous plots of land in Azarshahr – the capital of Azarshahr County, East Azerbaijan Province, IRNA reported.

Most of the agricultural plots in Azarshahr, particularly in the region of Gogan and Shiramin Village, are situated on the margins of Lake Urmia and therefore adversely affected not only by the reduced water levels of the lake but also by excessive salinity of the area’s groundwater.

At a meeting held to address agricultural issues facing the city, the head of Lake Urmia Restoration Program warned of a regional crisis and said if neglected, the problem can endanger not only the region’s water resources but also people’s lives.

Isa Kalantari referred to the 5 billion-rial budget allocated to the restoration program and said: “Although the climatic phenomenon of drought is a pervasive one, we will make every effort to restore the lake with coherent and purposeful management.”

According to Kalantari all executive organizations must contribute to Lake Urmia Restoration Program and it is essential to educate people on the effects of drought and methods to tackle the problem particularly in agriculture.

Describing drought as “a serious threat” to local agriculture, governor of Azarshahr Aliar Raastgoo, who was also at the meeting, said Azarshahr is a major producer of livestock and an agricultural hub in East Azerbaijan Province; therefore the restoration of Lake Urmia plays a vital role in the livelihood of local residents.

Also speaking at the meeting, Head of East Azerbaijan Agricultural Jihad Organization Manoochehr Rahmani noted that regional agriculture requires 190 million cubic meters of water annually, while only 70 million cubic meters are currently available. There are 823 water wells in Azarshahr, more than 200 of which have dried up and the rest are salty and unsafe to be used for long-term irrigation.

In response to concerns regarding the drought, Rahmani suggested optimum use of available water resources by making use of new methods of irrigation and crop cultivation. Growing salt-resistant plants such as pistachio trees and saffron in saline and salty land and employing drip irrigation and sprinkler systems can greatly improve agricultural productivity.

Azarshahr is located 55 kilometers from Tabriz – the capital of East Azerbaijan Province – with a population of 120 thousand people in towns and villages and more than 27 thousand hectares of irrigated and non-irrigated land and 100 hectares of fruit gardens. There are 10 thousand beneficiary farmers residing in the region producing 180 thousand tons of agricultural product and livestock per year.