Lake Urmia revival is gratifying: Japanese envoy

July 6, 2021 - 17:30

TEHRAN – Good measures have been taken to rehabilitate Lake Urmia and it is gratifying to see that the water body is being revived, Japanese Ambassador to Iran Ikawa Kazutoshi said.

"Good efforts have been made to revitalize Lake Urmia and I am very happy to see that the Lake is being revived and we hope to take more steps in this regard with the sympathy and cooperation of the related bodies." 

The envoy made the remarks in a meeting with the Deputy Governor of East Azarbaijan province, Javad Rahmati, on Tuesday.

Lake Urmia has created many opportunities and resources for people living in surrounding areas, he added.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is also working with the Government of the Islamic Republic to rehabilitate Lake Urmia, he noted.

He further expressed interest to enhance cooperation on tourism.

UNDP Representative to Iran Claudio Providas also said that UNDP has implemented several programs with the cooperation of Japan to revive Lake Urmia, all of which are well underway.

"We are looking for the development of sustainable agriculture and natural disaster management in the water basin of Lake Urmia, and good cooperation has been done for the implementation of projects, which fortunately has been achieved," he added.

Pointing out that Iran is affected by climate change, Providas said that "Climate cannot be changed, but projects that affect agriculture and people's livelihoods can be implemented through awareness-raising programs."

In the next step, after the desired changes have taken place in local communities, we are looking to digital marketing of agricultural products, he stated, adding, we are looking to brand those agricultural products that consume less water to help pace up the restoration process.

In the meeting, Rahmati also stated that our government has done great efforts to revitalize Lake Urmia as well as strengthening the locals.

Alternative livelihoods and changing the pattern of cultivation in the agricultural sector are among the programs that have been considered in order to revitalize the Lake, he highlighted.

Welcoming the expansion of tourism cooperation, he expressed hope that the fields of cooperation between East Azerbaijan and Japan will be created in various fields, especially economic.

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.

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 Urmia’s surface increased by over 1500 km²

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. 

Lake's surface area has reached up to 2,917 square kilometers, indicating 1,582 square kilometers increase in comparison to 2013 when the Lake Urmia Restoration Program began.

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, Sarkhosh 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.

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 Lake Urmia, however, it still needs 9.5 billion cubic meters of water to reach its ecological level.


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