People, Environment

Urmia Lake Stabilizes

Urmia Lake has been facing serious problems for years.
Urmia Lake has been facing serious problems for years.

The preemptive restoration efforts on the once imperiled Urmia Lake in East Azarbaijan Province have been effective and the lake will reach ecological balance by 2030, said the head of national wetland restoration plans at the Department of Environment.

Abolfazl Abasht added that the width of wetlands has increased from the critical 500 to 2,300-2,500 square kilometers, which indicates partial stability, IRIB News reported.

The Urmia Lake Restoration Program was 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 last September and the second phase started, with the initial goal of increasing the water level by 40 centimeters 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. While the lake’s restoration is underway, lack of funding threatens to undo all the hard work put into it.

Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, Urmia Lake has been facing serious drought for years. Its desiccation is due to climate change, the long dry spell, unrestrained damming and excessive water use, especially in the agriculture sector. The volume of water in the lake has more than doubled since 2013, when President Hassan Rouhani launched the Urmia Lake Restoration Program.

One of the largest hyper-saline lakes in the world, Urmia Lake is marked by more than 100 small rocky islands that are stopover points on the migration route of various waterfowl, including flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, ibises, storks, avocets, stilts and gulls.

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