People, Environment

Urmia Lake Restoration to Miss 2023 Target

Lack of funds has hindered restoration efforts.Lack of funds has hindered restoration efforts.
Approximately $157 million are slated to be paid to URLP from the treasury by mid-March

Urmia Lake will most likely fail to reach an ecological balance by 2023 due to the drying up of funds for related projects, the head of the Urmia Lake Restoration Program said.

Speaking at a ULRP meeting last week, Isa Kalantari added that executing key projects has become difficult because the earmarked funds have not been made available, ISNA reported. 

"The lake is not likely to reach its ecological balance by 2023, as it was planned," he said. 

Ecological balance is defined by researchers as a state of dynamic equilibrium within a community of organisms in which genetic, species and ecosystem diversity remains relatively stable, subject to gradual changes through natural succession.

Kalantari added that on the order of First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, approximately $157 million are slated to be paid to URLP from the treasury by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20). 

"We are aware of the government's financial constraints and do not intend to put the administration under pressure, but we are bound to inform the public and the president that the situation is dire," he said.

According to Masoud Tajrishi, ULRP's deputy for planning, lack of funds "has led to the suspension of 80% of restoration projects", IRNA reported. 

Kalantari, who is a former agriculture minister and senior environmental advisor to Jahangiri, noted that ULRP will at best be able to maintain the current stable condition of the lake over the next year but stressed that failing to meet the 2023 deadline "does not mean the program has failed". 

Earlier this year, Iran's Management and Planning Organization pledged to boost restoration efforts by providing $78 million to ULRP, "but we've yet to receive a penny", Tajrishi said.

Set up in 2013 shortly after Rouhani took office, the ULRP set out to stabilize the lake's water level (Phase 1) before embarking on the more challenging task of restoring its water level to what it was more than a decade ago (Phase 2).

The first phase was completed in September and the second phase started shortly after, with the initial goal of increasing the water level by 40 centimeters in a year.  The target is to restore the ecological level (1,274 meters above sea level) within 10 years.

In September, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Iran, Japan and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to help revive the imperiled lake in northwestern Iran, with Tokyo pledging to provide $3.8 million for restoration efforts in the next four years.

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