People, Environment

Zab River Essential to Lake Urmia Restoration

Zab River Essential to Lake Urmia RestorationZab River Essential to Lake Urmia Restoration

Success of the imperiled Lake Urmia’s revival program is contingent on the redistribution of Zab River’s water to the lake, according to a member of the program.

Speaking to ILNA, Masoud Tajrishi, head of the Urmia Lake Restoration Program’s scientific working group, said the plan to transfer water from Zab will help ensure the lake’s water level will not drop during the dry summer season.

He said: “In rainy seasons, the lake is filled with water. But once summer approaches, the water evaporates rapidly and Urmia Lake returns to its desiccated state.

“Transferring water from Zab means the lake will not suffer declining water levels during summer.” This ensures that the lake’s water level barely changes throughout the year, which helps local ecosystems thrive, Tajrishi said.

The plan to transfer water from Zab, in Kurdestan Province, is scheduled for completion in 2019.

The plan aims to transfer 600 million cubic meters of water annually from the river to Lake Urmia.

Originally, the plan was to use the river to irrigate farmlands, “but we insisted that revival of Lake Urmia is more important.”

Recalling Iran’s wasteful farming practices, Tajrishi stressed the importance of overhauling old and unaffordable agricultural practices and educating farmers to reduce water demand and improve crop output.

“For instance, in Miandoab (in West Azarbaijan Province), farmers use three times the water they need to grow beetroots, whereas with the right technology they can cut water consumption by two-thirds and double crop output,” he said.


 Tajrishi said passing on a trouble-free environment to future generations is a duty that must be taken seriously.

“We’re going to be held accountable by the next generation,” he said. “They will ask us if we explored every option to revive the lake, and we have to be able to answer that.”

Tajrishi, who is a research deputy at Sharif University of Technology, said there have been talks about transferring water from the Caspian Sea.

However, the Department of Environment is a staunch opponent of the plan, citing irreparable damage to the environment, including the Caspian Hyrcanian forests, as their main concern.

Pointing to the government’s commitment to restoring the lake, Tajrishi said President Hassan Rouhani “has given his word” to do everything in his power to revive Lake Urmia.

“Despite the country’s economic problems, we’ve so far been given 30% of the program’s budget, which is a substantial amount, all things considered,” he said.

Once twice as large as Luxembourg, Lake Urmia has shrunk substantially. According to published reports, it was sliced in half in 2008 and its surface area has dwindled to around 10% of its average size over the course of five decades.

The lake has dried up drastically 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 a major supply of water flowing from the mountains towering either side of the lake.