Urmia Lake Restoration Program Seemingly Effective

Urmia Lake Restoration  Program Seemingly Effective Urmia Lake Restoration  Program Seemingly Effective

With public joy over the considerable increase in Lake Urmia’s water level dissipating, many are beginning to wonder whether to attribute the lake’s progress to the government’s restoration efforts or good rainfall during the current water year (began September 2015).

Some argue that the officials at the Urmia Lake Restoration Program, which was established in 2013 shortly after President Hassan Rouhani took office, are going out of their way to take credit for the progress, which they say is the result of high precipitation.

However, the issue may not be as black-and-white as it seems.

“Both natural phenomena and man-made factors have played a part in the lake’s progress,” Hamid Qasemi, head of the Department of Environment office in East Azarbaijan Province, was quoted as saying in an article published on the DOE website.

He said the lake’s catchment area has received 259 milliliters of rainfall this year, which is about the same as last year, meaning the “restoration program’s efforts are paying off.”

This is while by some estimates, the lake’s catchment area has received 281 milliliters of rainfall this water year, while in the corresponding period of last year (September 2014 – April 2015) it received 309 milliliters, meaning precipitation this year has declined by 9.3% compared to a year before in Lake Urmia’s catchment area, Mehr News Agency reported.

Lake Urmia’s water level, which was last measured on April 11, has increased by 80 centimeters since the beginning of the current water year and by 19 centimeters compared to a measurement taken exactly a year ago.

This is the first time the lake’s water level registers a double-digit rise compared to a year before, according to ISNA.

With the onset of the hot summer season, the lake will begin to lose water and the challenge is to ensure minimal water evaporation, and the ULRP has plans to ensure minimal water loss during the warmer months.

The government approved a project last November to transfer water from Zab River to Lake Urmia, which is meant to help reduce its evaporation in summer.

The plan to transfer water from Zab, in Kurdestan Province, is scheduled for completion in 2019. Once complete, the river will feed around 600 million cubic meters of water annually to Lake Urmia.

Climatologists have predicted that this summer will be about 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than normal, which officials say will dry the northern section of the lake, leaving only small patches of water.

The lake has dried up drastically in the past 20 years due to a variety of factors, including the construction of a 15-kilometer causeway to shorten the travel time between Urmia and Tabriz cities as well as construction of several dams that have choked off water supply from the mountains towering either side of the lake.

Officials have said the lake will be restored by 2023.