Friday, December 3, 2010

Lake Urmia (Urmiye) facing environmental crisis

Urmia Lake, which is registered as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, will be dried up within three years, announced a local official in the Environmental Protection Organization in West Azarbaijan.
“Considering the current trend of the environmental crisis in Urmia Lake, the lake will be completely dried up within three years,” Hassan Abbasnejad said on Sunday.
The Urmia Lake is a salt lake lying in the northwestern Iran and is home to various migratory birds including flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, ibises, storks, avocets, stilts, and gulls. The lake is located between the provinces of East Azarbaijan and West Azarbaijan. It is the third largest salt water lake on earth with a surface area of approximately 5,200 square kilometers.
Unfortunately, what the experts forecast ten years ago is coming true and this precious ecological asset will be completely destroyed in the near future, Abbasnejad said.
He went on to say that the destruction of the lake will create serious environmental problems for the region’s ecological system and climate.
Abbasnejad also said that due to high evaporation rate, currently the deepest part of the lake is only two meters deep and the lake has been shrunk by 60 percent resulting in the rise in the level of water salinity and in turn fall in the oxygen content of the lake water.
The reduction of the oxygen has endangered the life of the only living creature in the lake namely Artemia, which serves as a food source for flamingos and other migratory birds.
The official cited high evaporation rate, reduction in the amount of the water which pours into the lake, low precipitation, and overexploitation of the underground water resources as the main causes of the dilemma.
Experts say construction of dams on rivers feeding the lake and also droughts have significantly decreased the annual amount of water Urmia Lake receives. They also say that the construction of a bridge across the lake has upset its ecological balance.
The local environmental official also announced that a working group has been established to find ways to save the lake and manage the crisis, adding 1.8 billion dollars has been earmarked for this purpose.
He went on to say that pumping water into the lake, cloud seeding, optimizing the use of the nearby underground water resources and revising the irrigation systems used in the nearby farmlands are the major measures to be taken to save the lake.