0830 GMT August 18, 2019
Speaking at a meeting with the representative of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in East Azarbaijan Province on Saturday, Kalantari raised the alarm about the consequences of the drying up of Lake Orumieh and said domestic funds are not enough to restore the lake, Tasnim News Agency reported.
As Lake Orumieh is shrinking and deserts of salt expanding, Iranian officials are trying to find ways to avert an imminent disaster and to stop the salt lake from drying up.
One of the largest salt lakes in the world and classified as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Lake Orumieh has lost about 70 percent of its surface over the last two decades due to drought and the damming of rivers feeding it.
The disappearance of the lake could leave behind billions of tons of salt which in turn displace millions of people and endanger the ecosystem of all surrounding areas, whose economy relies on agriculture and tourism.
Around 6.4 million people and 200 species of birds live in the Orumieh basin.
The lake ecosystem supports biodiversity and provides recreation and mental health benefits, as well as water for agriculture and industry.
According to unenvironment.org, a study between 2002 and 2011 in the eastern sub-basin of the lake showed that agricultural activities, the expansion of farmland, and population increases over the last three decades led to the overexploitation of resources, causing land degradation. The lake has been in decline since 1995. By August 2011, its surface area was only 2,366 square kilometers, according to UN Environment. It further declined to 700 square kilometers in 2013. NASA satellite data indicates that the lake lost about 70 percent of its surface area between 2002 and 2016.
Iran is working with development partners and local communities to improve the situation. Engineering works have helped unblock and un-silt the feeder rivers, and there has been a deliberate release of water from dams in the surrounding hills. In September 2016 the Government of Iran and the Food and Agriculture Organization launched a four-year sustainable management project for the lake.
However, recent indications are that the lake is recovering. The lake surface area is now 2,300 square kilometers (UN Development Programme, 2017). UN Environment’s November 2017 Foresight brief focuses on the extent of this recovery and measures being put in place to ensure this is sustained.