Lake Urmia full restoration deferred pending budget allocation

September 15, 2018

TEHRAN — Limited budget could put back Lake Urmia, a wetland located in northwest Iran, restoration projects, Masoud Tajrishi deputy environment chief and an official with the lake restoration program has said.

The lake, shared between West Azarbaijan and East Azarbaijan provinces, used to be the largest salt-water lake in the Middle East. It was a home to many migratory and indigenous animals including flamingos, pelicans, egrets and ducks and attracted hundreds of tourist every year who had taken a trip to take advantage of the therapeutic properties of the lake.

However, the lake started to shrink in 1990s. The drastic decrease of the lake water level over the past 20 years has seriously affected the lake’s wildlife and human ecology. 

The volume of water which measured at 30 billion cubic meters dramatically decreased to half a billion cubic meters in 2013 and again rose to 2.5 billion cubic meters in 2017 and accordingly lake surface area of 5,000 square kilometers in 1997 shrunk to one tenth of that to 500 square kilometers in 2013.

As per the data published on Iran Environment and Wildlife Watch website on April 8, the lake is stretching over some 2,200 square kilometers and the volume of water is measured at some 2 billion cubic meters.

“Thankfully we have succeeded in stabilizing the lake conditions, but we haven’t received the budget to fully restore the lake,” Tajrishi regretted. 

In order to restore the lake some 8 trillion rials budget (nearly $190 million) was approved in the year 1395 (March 2016- March 2017) only half of which was actually received, he said, adding that, last year (March 2017-March 2018) no budget was allocated to the lake restoration projects. 

In general the government has so far allotted some 20 trillion rials (nearly $475 million) since the establishment of the Lake Urmia Restoration Program in August 2013, ISNA quoted him as saying on Friday. 

Out of 13 projects of water treatment and water transfer to the lake only two are being implemented, he concluded.

In order to maintain the lake ecological balance the lake surface area should increase to twice its current size to almost 4,300 square kilometers and the volume of water should be at 14.5 billion cubic meters.

MQ/

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