People, Environment

Lake Urmia Restoration to Pay Off by 2023

Lake Urmia Restoration to Pay Off by 2023Lake Urmia Restoration to Pay Off by 2023

Efforts to revive the embattled Lake Urmia will pay off by 2023, according to the director of Urmia Lake Restoration Program, Isa Kalantari.

Speaking to Mehr News Agency, the former agriculture minister said restoration efforts began last winter.

“Some 4.5 trillion rials ($135 million) were spent on the lake between January and March and the government has earmarked 19.5 trillion rials ($584 million) for the project during the current Iranian year (started March 21),” he said.

Kalantari said the first two years of the restoration program is focused on stabilizing the lake and ensuring no more water is lost and stressed that the impact of the program will become apparent by 2019.

“Reducing agricultural water consumption and diverting water from rivers to the lake are among the more important restorative measures,” he said.

Kalantari said once the construction of Silveh Dam in Piranshahr, West Azarbaijan Province, is completed, 150 million to 200 million cubic meters of water will be added to the lake.

Previously, it was announced that the government would purchase the water rights of farmers around Lake Urmia. The scheme, which is to be implemented over five years, aims to purchase 40% of irrigation waters used by farmers.

According to Kalantari, the plan will not impact farmers’ crop output, adding that with the implementation of modern, efficient technology “[farmers] will be able to produce the same amount of crop with 40% less water.”

In another move, the government issued a directive last week banning all agricultural development projects in the immediate vicinity of Lake Urmia.

Today, the lake contains only 5% of the amount of water it held 20 years ago. Experts say if the lake dries up, it will affect all life in a 100-kilometer radius, even forcing residents of a metropolis like Tabriz to evacuate.