EghtesadOnline: To revive the desiccated Urmia Lake $250 million will be allocated in the next fiscal year that will start in March 2020, the first vice president said.
“The government is determined to restore the troubled lake. We want to ensure that what led to the ecological disaster will not happen again,” Eshaq Jahangiri was quoted as saying by ISNA.
Drawing on international experience should be a priority in whatever decisions are made to help revive the lake, Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
“The experience of reviving the lake in the past six years can be used to help restore other water bodies (like Zayandehroud) in the central provinces that are on the verge of desiccation.”
Measures taken to revive Lake Urmia in recent years (stopping dam construction, better managing existing reservoirs and regulating use of the agricultural lands) helped the flow of 4.6 billion cubic meters of water into the drying lake, he said.
Three provinces that share Lake Urmia basin - East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, and Kurdestan - and the government have joined forces to devise restoration ideas that can deliver.
With restorative measures, including sealing 4,000 illegal wells and promoting sustainable farming in 6,000 hectares of farmland, the lake's water level has reached 1,272 meters, which is one meter higher compared to 2014.
Lake Urmia now covers a surface area of 2,800 square kilometers, up 40% compared to last year. At its best level, it covered a surface of 5,000 square kilometers (2,000 square miles).
The lake holds 3.3 billion cubic meters of water that is 1.7 bcm more than in 2018.
Once the second-largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, Lake Urmia attracted birds and bathers to bask in its turquoise waters in northwest Iran. Then beginning in the 1970s, nearly three decades of drought and high water demand on the lake shriveled the basin, shrinking it by a shocking 80%.
Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, the lake is a closed water body fed through 21 permanent and 39 seasonal rivers.
It depleted significantly due to a variety of factors namely construction of a 15 km causeway to shorten travel time between Urmia and Tabriz plus construction of several dams that have choked off water supply from the mountains on either side of the lake.
Experts and independent observers say Iran’s push for economic development is taking a toll on the water resources in the mostly arid and semi-arid country as myopic projects take away water to supply inefficient agriculture and rapidly expanding urban areas.
Without a pragmatic plan of action the country could likely face severe water stress.
Officials, including Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian, insist on building dams as an effective way to fight water scarcity.
On the other hand, prominent environmentalists and researchers are of the opinion that dams are not smart solutions to address the worsening water paucity.
They say that instead of wasting money on mega structures, it should be expended on building wastewater plants to help reuse wastewater and rehabilitate aging water networks in cities and towns through which a large volume (30%) of drinking water is lost due to seepage and rusted pipelines.