Dramatic fall in Lake Urmia undermines Rouhani's campaign promises
Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 3
By Fatih Karimov – Trend:
The recent statistics by Iran’s Energy Ministry confirms that the water volume in the drying Urmia lake catchments has decreased significantly, a bad news for administration of President Hassan Rouhani, who promised to revive the lake during his presidential campaign.
The volume of surface water runoff in catchments of Lake Urmia in the northwest of Iran has dropped by 38 percent during the last crop year (ended Sept. 22, 2017) in comparison with the preceding year, according to the country's Energy Ministry.
The volume of runoff in the catchments stood at 3.085 billion cubic meters in the last crop year compared to 4.956 billion cubic meters in preceding year.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has set up a working group for saving Lake Urmia. The committee prepared a 9-year plan to restore the lake, with 2023 being the year targeted for the lake's complete restoration.
Last month, Isa Kalantari, head of the Environment Protection Organization, said that the budget deficit might postpone the lake’s full restoration. However, he claimed that the lake is already saved from total dryness.
Some Iranian experts believe that the most efficient measures in reviving the lake, such as prohibiting unauthorized use of surface and groundwater, limiting groundwater use by local farmers, and transferring water from other catchments, including the Araz River, are impractical and will lead to serious social tensions.
Recently, Sergey Ryazansky, a Russian cosmonaut, shared a few photos from the lake, which were disappointing.
The photos confirm that no progress was achieved for reviving the Lake Urmia, which has almost vanished in last 14 years.
According to Kalantari, who also heads the Lake Urmia restoration program, full restoration of the lake requires an annual budget of 20 trillion rials (nearly $500 million).
However, he regretted that “right now we are short of some 17 trillion rials (nearly $425 million) per annum.”
Iranian officials say that so far some 25 trillion rials (nearly $625 million) have been spent on lake restoration projects and additional 200 trillion rials (nearly $5 billion) are required to bring the lake back to its former situation.
Previous reports said that Lake Urmia needs 3.1 billion cubic meters of water per year to survive.
Kalantari earlier said that Iran will be facing a $1 trillion in damages if the lake dries out completely, while its restoration will cost only $6-7 billion.
If the lake dries out completely it will put the lives of 14 million people in danger of salt storms.