People, Environment

Lake Urmia Showing Signs of Recovery

Lake Urmia Showing Signs of RecoveryLake Urmia Showing Signs of Recovery

Iran’s largest inland body of water is showing signs of recovery following recent measures taken by the Urmia Lake Restoration Project.

Good rainfall combined with the opening of Boukan Dam and the merger of Zarrinehroud and Siminehroud rivers, whose waters were directed toward Lake Urmia, seem to have set the imperiled lake on path to recovery, IRNA reported.

“Over the past 10 days, water has covered about 700 square kilometers of the southern portion of lake,” said Hojjat Jabari, a deputy at the Department of Environment in West Azarbaijan Province. “Water depth in the region varies between 12 and 20 centimeters.”

Around 1,100 square kilometers of Lake Urmia is now filled with water.

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),

The ULRP was established shortly after President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013. The first two years of the restoration program is focused on stabilizing the lake and ensuring no more water is lost

According to Isa Kalantari, the director of the program and a former agriculture minister, the impact of the program will be seen by 2019, while efforts to revive the embattled Lake Urmia will pay off by 2023.

In August, it was announced that the government would purchase the water rights of farmers around the lake. 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 volumes but with 40% less water.”

Furthermore, the government issued a directive earlier this year banning all agricultural development projects in the immediate vicinity of the lake.

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 over a 100-kilometer radius, even forcing residents of a metropolis like Tabriz to find a dwelling place elsewhere.