$47m earmarked for Lake Urmia restoration

October 11, 2019 - 11:1

TEHRAN – A total budget of 2 trillion rials (nearly $47 million) was approved to be allocated to the Lake Urmia restoration program, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Wednesday.

Shared between West Azarbaijan and East Azarbaijan provinces in northwestern Iran, Lake Urmia, was once 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 tourists every year who had bathed in the water to take advantage of the therapeutic properties of the lake.

However, decades of long-standing drought spells and elevated hot summer temperatures that speed up evaporation as well as increased water demands in agriculture sector shrank the lake drastically. In 1999 the volume of water which was at 30 billion cubic meters drastically decreased to half a billion cubic meters in 2013. Moreover, the lake surface area of 5,000 square kilometers in 1997 shrunk to one tenth of that to 500 square kilometers in 2013.

During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the lake’s condition was discussed and it was approved to allot some 2 trillion rials (nearly $47 million) to help revive the lake, Rabiei stated, IRNA reported.

The sharp rise in precipitations rates in the area has raised hopes for total restoration of the once glorious Lake Urmia. 

Based on the latest data published by the National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center, during the past crop year (September 23, 2018), precipitation in the country considerably increased to 314.5 millimeters from 159.3 millimeters in a water year ago, demonstrating a 95.9 percent rise.

The level of water at Lake Urmia increased by 1.04 centimeters on September 24 compared to the same day last year, according to the studies conducted by the Lake Urmia conservation program committee.

Currently, the volume of water at Lake Urmia has increased by 3.46 billion cubic meters compared to that of the previous year.

However, rain alone cannot contribute to the full restoration of the lake so measures along with budgets are needed, as well.

Alireza Shari’at, head of monitoring and supervision department of the Lake Urmia restoration program, said in September 2018 that in order to maintain the lake’s ecological balance of 14 billion cubic meters over the next 10 years, an annual amount of 3.3 billion cubic meters of water is required.