People, Environment

Zab Water Transfer Lacks Permit

Zab Water Transfer Lacks PermitZab Water Transfer Lacks Permit

The plan to transfer water from Zab River to Lake Urmia does not have a permit from the Department of Environment, which could create a legal problem between the department and the Urmia Lake Restoration Program (ULRP).

“If they go through with the project, we will have to take legal action,” Saeed Jalalvandi, director of the Environmental Assessment Office at the DOE, told ISNA.

He said that the developers have submitted their assessment reports to the department but it has not yet been reviewed yet, “therefore, starting work on the project is illegal and will result in prosecution.”

This is while Masoud Tajrishi, director of the Planning and Development Office at the Urmia Lake Restoration Program, had earlier told reporters that the DOE “has no problems with the project”, adding that 900 meters of a canal had been dug to transfer water to the lake.

The department’s deputy for natural environment and biodiversity, Farhad Dabiri, had also said that the DoE had reviewed the plan and decided that its benefits outweigh the disadvantages, asserting that it had to be slightly revised to ensure minimal environmental impacts.

Nevertheless, Jalalvandi maintains that based on regulations, plans that require environmental assessment are not allowed to be carried out without a permit.

“The directive has been communicated to all provincial offices of the DOE, and if the provincial DOE office remains silent, it will have to take responsibility,” added the official.    

Transferring water from Zab River in Kurdestan Province is an attempt to ensure the lake’s water level will not drop during the dry summer season. Yet, critics argue that the plan would adversely impact the river and lake alike. The project, which is expected to be completed by 2019, aims to transfer 600 million cubic meters of water annually from Zab to Lake Urmia.

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 water supply from the mountains towering either side of the lake.