ULRP: Criticism of Scheme Misplaced

The water level in Urmia Lake has doubled since 2013, when the ULRP was established.The water level in Urmia Lake has doubled since 2013, when the ULRP was established.

A senior official at the Urmia Lake Restoration Program has said that criticism directed at one of the program’s schemes is misplaced because it was never implemented.

One of the program’s plans aimed at restoring Urmia Lake in northeastern Iran sought to reduce farmers’ water rights to increase the lake’s inflow, but a water expert last week heavily criticized the scheme, describing its implementation as “betraying farmers”.

The scheme, titled “Nakasht” (Persian for no planting) was proposed by the ULRP years ago, which targeted a significant reduction in agricultural water rights in exchange for financial compensation for farmers.

According to Masoud Tajrishi, director of the Planning and Development Office at the ULRP, the drastic decision was made because experts had warned that failure to stabilize the lake’s water level within three years (by 2016) would spell the end of any efforts to restore Urmia Lake.

“However, upon the request of several lawmakers and on President Hassan Rouhani’s order, the plan was scrapped,” he said, adding that an alternative scheme was proposed which proved to be effective.

The new plan, called “Behkasht” (Persian for efficient planting), helped reduce irrigation in farms around the lake by 18% in three years by promoting efficient irrigation methods.

“Farmers now use less water and crop yield has not suffered,” Tajrishi said, explaining that correcting irrigation techniques and understanding the water demands of different crops were key to the plan’s success.

Farms in the southern areas of the lake were irrigated more than their requirement due to their access to abundant sources of water, he said.

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 Rouhani launched the ULRP.

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