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Energy Authority Denies Damming Up Urmia’s Intake

Environmental officials have accused the Energy Ministry of blocking water from flowing into Urmia while the ministry insists the discharge has even exceeded the target
Urmia Lake is located in a region where precipitation has been above normal unlike other catchment areas of the country.Urmia Lake is located in a region where precipitation has been above normal unlike other catchment areas of the country.

The Energy Ministry has denied the recent accusations by the Department of Environment and officials with the Urmia Lake Restoration Project regarding its refusal to release water from dam reservoirs into the lake when possible as required by regulations. 

The deputy head for planning at the ministry’s water and wastewater office has claimed that the amount of dam water directed toward the lake has been larger than the set target over the current water year (started Sept. 23). 

“Based on plans, 289 million cubic meters were set to be sent into Urmia while we have so far released 486 million cm, that is around 67% more than the target,” Hedayat Fahmi was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency. 

He admitted, however, that the ministry blocked water behind dams over the past January and February, though it was not the growing season. 

“At that time, the country was faced with a shortage of around 45% in precipitation, and hot and dry conditions were forecast for the upcoming spring, so we were expecting a crisis,” he said. 

According to the official, it was “highly risky” to allow the flow of water at that time because it was uncertain whether or not adequate rain would fall. 

Nevertheless, the ministry opened up the dams later in March and April with certain reservoirs discharging over-target amounts, he noted. 

“For instance, Boukan dam was set to discharge 170 million cm but some 177 million cm were directed toward Urmia,” he said. 

This is while Masoud Tajrishi, a top official with the ULRP, had earlier claimed that the ministry had refused to discharge water in that period despite frequent requests by the ULRP. 

“The ministry did not allow the inflow of water for fear of a water shortage in the summer,” he had said, regretting that management of water resources is not in keeping with scientific methods. 

Fahmi further said thanks to favorable downpours over May and June, reservoirs are filled up by 83% now and discharge plans are being implemented at the moment. 

“Our reserves are sufficient for the next year’s demand, therefore, we expect extra release of water in the upcoming non-agricultural season,” he said. 

 Priority at Issue  

Tajrishi had also harshly criticized the ministry for giving no priority at all to the environment while based on regulations it has to be the top priority in terms of water allocation after drinking water. 

“The Energy Ministry puts farming rights before other sectors,” he said. 

A directive by the High Council for Water stipulates that priority must be given to urban, ecological and agricultural water respectively. 

In response, Fahmi referred to the accusations as “unfair”.

“The ministry has strived to meet the target of reducing farming consumption from dams by 40% in five years (8% annually) and has managed to decrease it by a total of 21% over the past three water years [ending in Sept. 23, 2017],” he explained. 

The scheme is aimed at supplying the nature’s water share and up to 1.7 billion cm have been released in this period.  

“This is the amount subtracted from the agriculture sector and given to the environment in addition to its previous shares,” he said, dismissing charges that the ministry is acting in favor of farming. 

Urmia Lake is located in a region where precipitation has been above normal unlike other catchment areas of the country. 

This creates the expectation of greater inflow into the lake which officials at the DOE and ULRP maintain has not been realized.

The Energy Ministry insists that the discharge of water has been over the set goals this year despite a period of blockage.  

 

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