‘Restoring Lake Urmia costs $7b, neglecting it incurs $1tn loss’

October 26, 2016

TEHRAN — The restoration of Lake Urmia is estimated to cost around $7 billion while consequences of neglecting it may incur losses to the tune of $1 trillion, the head of Lake Urmia restoration program said on Tuesday.

The figures indicate that how economical it is to revive the lake rather than abandoning the attempts to save it from drying up completely, Issa Kalantari suggested.

Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran was once the largest lake in the Middle East and the sixth-largest saltwater lake on Earth with a surface area of approximately 5,200 square kilometers. The lake has shrunk to 10 percent of its former size mostly due to damming of the rivers that flow into it and pumping of groundwater from the area.

“During 90s the lake’s water level was pretty high but we were warned not to be deluded into believing that the lake is all right and taking the lake and future threats into granted as depleting the underground sources in the lake basin could eventually result in the lake’s total dryness,” Kalantari regretted.

The lake’s water level was at 1,278 meters meaning 7 meters higher than its current level and back then none of the responsible organizations believed something could have happened to the lake by 2016, he added.

But things got worse and worse gradually by depleting groundwater resources for farming which has put the lake into a critical condition, but still the warning fell on deaf ears, Kalantari explained.

He went on to say that “finally with the current administration formed three years ago the lake restoration became a top priority and accordingly the first directive approved by the cabinet was drawing up a 10-year restoration program for the lake.”

Currently what is threatening the future of the lake is budget deficit, he stated.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Kalantari claimed that Lake Urmia’s dryness is largely on government’s part rather than the people and hold executive and governing bodies accountable for the lake dryness.

----- “We exploit 110 percent of the renewable resources”

Kalantari further announced that annually some 88 billion cubic meters of water replenishes the renewable water resources, however, “we use some 97 billion cubic water in the country per annum,” “in other words while we should use 40 percent of the country’s water resources we are milking some 110 percent of them.”

Kalantari also explained that “we use some 61 billion cubic meters of groundwater annually and only 10 billion cubic meters of it is being recycled; meanwhile merely some 19 billion cubic meters of water is being stored underground per annum.”

MQ/MG

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