Japan willing to continue environmental co-op with Iran

May 1, 2021 - 17:14

TEHRAN – The seven-year cooperation between Iran and Japan in the successful implementation of Lake Urmia revival has made the Japanese government willing to continue environmental cooperation, Ahmad Reza Lahijanzadeh, deputy chief of the Department of Environment (DOE) for the marine environment, said.

He made the remarks during the 26th meeting of the Steering Committee of the Iranian Wetlands Protection Project held virtually on Saturday.

Pointing to the success of the project on modeling people's participation in the revitalization of Lake Urmia, which is in its seventh year of implementation, he stated that the two countries will cooperate on a three-year document entitled “Sustainability of Lake Urmia Rehabilitation Achievements and Development of Innovative Experiences for Environmental and Livelihood Sustainability in East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, Fars and Khuzestan Provinces.”

He expressed satisfaction and hope for the positive and impressive performance of Conservation of Iranian wetlands, despite all the limitations caused by the pandemic, which are the result of the support and cooperation of the responsible bodies, NGOs, and other stakeholders and participants.

UNDP Representative to Iran Claudio Providas also praised the efforts of the DOE as one of the UNDP's oldest executive partners, and the active participation of the related organizations.

The meeting was held with the presence of representatives from the office of wetlands protection and rehabilitation, United Nations Development Program, DOE heads of East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan, Fars and Khuzestan provinces, Planning and Budget Organization, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and related organizations.

Japan’s eighth contribution to Lake Urmia revival

On February 17, the Government of Japan contributed $3 million to help revive Lake Urmia through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The contribution will be implemented as a component of UNDP’s ongoing Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project – a joint project between Iran’s Department of Environment and UNDP. This was Japan’s eighth contribution to UNDP Iran.

So far, UNDP has implemented several initiatives to stop the degradation trend and restore this important Lake and other wetlands in the country. These efforts have significantly contributed to the stability of Lake Urmia and introducing new approaches based on the improved management of its basin. By the end of the seventh phase, the project was implemented in 183 villages.

In addition to almost $7 million in financial support from the Japanese government, so far more than $1 billion has been spent on the project in total.

Lake’s surface area doubled in 6 years

At the beginning of the 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 in comparison to the current water level.

Lake Urmia’s surface area has reached up to 2,917 square kilometers, indicating 1,582 square kilometers increase in comparison to 2013.

The level of Lake Urmia has reached 1,271 meters, which indicates an increase of over 1.39 meters compared to the lowest volume recorded, Farhad Sarkhosh, head of the Lake Urmia Restoration Program’s office in West Azarbaijan province said.

The volume of water also raised by 3.81 billion cubic meters, which has increased more than 5 times compared to the Iranian calendar year 1394 (March 2015-March 2016) and before the Lake Urmia Restoration Program started, he highlighted.

The water transfer projects will cause Lake Urmia to reach its ecological level over the next seven years, which is 1274.1 meters with 15 billion cubic meters of water through increasing the lake’s level by one meter each year.

With the transfer of water from Zab River, about 623 million cubic meters of water will enter the lake permanently annually.

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.

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