Iran Leader Orders Start of Plan to Save Shrinking Lake

Iran, sapped by drought in parts of the country for five decades, will try to save one of the Middle East’s largest lakes after it lost 85 percent of its water.

Lake Urmia “shouldn’t be left in its current status,” President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday, according to the state-run Fars news agency. “The government is ready to pay the costs, as much as needed, to rehabilitate the lake.”

The lake in northwest Iran has shrunk as dams were built and farmers diverted water for crops amid climate change, state media say. The average depth of Lake Urmia when it covered 5,000 square kilometers, the size of the Caribbean island of Trinidad, was six meters (20 feet). That’s now one meter, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said.

The United Nations in partnership with Iran’s environment department presented a report in March on conserving Iranian wetlands. The project relating to Lake Urmia will introduce sustainable agriculture practices to 40 villages with a potential water savings of about 35 percent while water-harvesting options will also be considered, the UNDP said on its website. Japan contributed $1 million to the UNDP’s office in Tehran to help manage area waters more efficiently.

Operations to save Lake Urmia may start next week though restoring it will require 10 to 15 years, IRNA said, citing Davoud-Reza Arab, a spokesman for the Lake Urmia Restoration Committee.

Iran has suffered from drought either nationwide or in certain areas for about half of the past five decades, the Tehran-based Donya-e-Eqtesad newspaper reported today, citing Deputy Energy Minister Sattar Mahmoudi. This year, Iran’s rainfall has decreased 6 percent, with the capital Tehran and 11 other cities bordering on water shortages, Mahmoudi said.

About 92 percent of Iran’s water is used in the agriculture industry, the minister said. At 236 liters (62 gallons) per person, Iran’s daily water consumption is higher than the global average, he said.

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