SDSs generated by Lake Urmia hotspots reduced by 90%

August 19, 2020 - 21:30

TEHRAN – After the beginning of restoration measures, the sand and dust storms (SDSs) generated by Lake Urmia hotspots has been reduced by 90 percent, even has reached zero in some critical areas, head of the Lake Urmia Restoration Program has said.

Prior to the start of the executive activities for Lake Urmia rehabilitation, an area of approximately 100,000 hectares was considered as a land sensitive to wind erosion due to the lake’s retreat, Farhad Sarkhosh stated.

In addition to the specialized measures in controlling the critical hotspots of SDSs, a 50 percent increase in the Lake’s surface and an eightfold increase in its water level caused many lands prone to wind erosion to return to normal again, he explained.

He went on to note that the government has spent 100 trillion rials (about $2.3 billion at the official rate of 42,000 rials) to implement rehabilitation projects on the lake.

During a five-year period until last year, a total of 673 billion rials (nearly $16 million) have been earmarked to counter sand and dust storms generated by the resources surrounding Lake Urmia, 70 percent of which has so far been provided, he noted.

The SDSs control operations in the area are either completed or in its final stage, which is a significant measure as saved 14 million people, he further stated.

Referring to the operation of water transfer projects from the south of West Azerbaijan to Lake Urmia, Sarkhosh said that these projects were put into operation in January this year and will increase the water level of the lake by about one meter annually.

The lowest amount of water in Lake Urmia was recorded in 2012, a year before the start of the practical work of the restoration program, with 500 million cubic meters of water, which now reached more than 4 billion cubic meters showing an eightfold increase, he highlighted.

He went on to state that despite this relative increase in water level, the 30-year chart of changes in Lake Urmia based on satellite data shows that the lake is still far from its good condition and increasing rainfall and optimal use of water resources can continue to increase the water level and lead to its complete restoration.

Although the level of 1,274 meters has been announced as the lake’s ecological level, this lake will have favorable conditions at the level of 1,272 meters and more than 95 percent of the dust sources will be eliminated, Sarkhosh emphasized.

Lake Urmia, located in the northwest of Iran, was once the most extensive permanent hypersaline lake in the world. Unsustainable water management in response to increasing demand together with climatic extremes has given rise to the lake's depletion during the last two decades. The lake’s restoration program was established in 2013 and aims to restore the lake within a 10-year program.

The level of Lake Urmia reached about 1271.56 meters on July 21, equivalent to 3,004 square kilometers surface area and 4.19 billion cubic meters in volume, while at the beginning of Lake Urmia Restoration Program in 2013, the Lake’s level was about 1270.32 meters, 1783 square kilometers in surface area and 1.14 billion cubic meters in volume, which indicates a 50 percent increase in the lake’s surface area.

Achieving sustainable rehabilitation requires countless efforts, such as preventing the lake's water flow from entering the agricultural land. Lake Urmia’s condition stabilized with a positive trend due to heavy rainfall, but there is a fear that this trend will be reversed by drought in the coming years.

The above normal levels of rain came to help conservation measures to preserve the Lake Urmia, however, it still needs 9.5 billion cubic meters of water to reach its ecological level of 1274.10 meters.


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