People, Environment

Lack of Funds Delaying Urmia Lake Restoration

Lack of Funds Delaying Urmia Lake RestorationLack of Funds Delaying Urmia Lake Restoration

Urmia Lake's restoration efforts will miss its 2023 target as a result of inadequate funding, with 2025 the likely year when the lake can be safely considered restored.

Khalil Saei, who heads restoration efforts in East Azarbaijan Province, told ISNA on Sunday that only 30% of the restoration program's three-year budget have been made available.

"The budget for 2014-17 was about 5.5 billion rials ($147 million), but only 1.62 billion rials ($43.2 million) have been allocated," he said.

Saei said if the budget is not readily available, the lake will take until 2025 to recover.

Isa Kalantari had said earlier this year that Urmia Lake Restoration Program would miss the self-imposed 2023 deadline.

Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, Urmia Lake has been facing serious drought for years. Its depletion 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.

"Despite the lack of funds, related entities have gone out of their way to meet their objectives and have helped us implement 90% of our projects," Saei said.

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

The surface of the lake is 1,270.72 meters above sea level and will reach ecological balance once it hits 1,274 meters.

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