By Sara Rajabova
The ecological problem related to the shoaling of Lake Urmia is a source of big concern in Iran.
Therefore, Iran prepares various projects to prevent the shoaling problem and restore the Lake Urmia.
Speaking on the issue, the newly appointed head of Iran's Environmental Protection Organization, Masoumeh Ebtekar, said saving Lake Urmia is her first priority, Iranian Shargh newspaper reported.
She went on to note that projects on saving Lake Urmia were started in 2002 (when she was head of the Environmental Protection Organization during the administration of former president Mohammad Khatami), but were suspended in 2005 when ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office.
Ebtekar expressed hope that the Iranian government organizations will cooperate to save Lake Urmia.
Recently, Iran's Energy Minister, Hamid Chitchian has informed that Iranian President Hassan Rohani has signed special instruction to suspend work on the construction of the dam around Lake Urmia.
Recall that the construction of dams on its banks is also among the major problems related to the lake.
On August 19, the official website of the Iranian president reported that president Rouhani established a working group to tackle the issue of saving Lake Urmia
Other members of the group include the agriculture minister, the interior minister, and the head of the Environment Protection Organization and a representative of the deputy president for planning and strategic supervision.
Chitchian said the Iranian president has created a working group to address the problem of preservation of Lake Urmia. "This group looked through all researches on Lake Urmia, which were carried out before and prepared several projects on the basis of these studies."
The task group was commissioned to use the background of the already conducted studies and technical research works in the field and to present their proposals for saving Lake Urmia to the government within a two-month period.
He noted that scientific centers have submitted more than 30 proposals to the working group, which are on agenda to discuss further.
Chitchian also added that they will suspend survey into the construction of the dam around Lake Urmia intended to restore its water resources and explore the possibility for the water transfer into the lake from other water basins, including the Araz River and the Caspian Sea.
Lake Urmia in northwest Iran is experiencing its worst drought condition for many years, where over 70 percent of its water has dried up. The level of the water has been declining since 1995.
Officials say if the current restoration efforts are not effective, the lake will be turned into a swamp within four years.
The area of Lake Urmia is the third largest salt water lake on earth, which has 6,000 square kilometers surface. During the migrations of birds the lake becomes their temporary home. The lake's drying up has an impact on the flora and fauna of the region. Experts on environmental issues say that the measures taken by the Iranian government are not enough to save the lake.
The project on directing 600 million cubic meters of water from Araz River into Lake Urmia was launched during a visit by former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and government officials to Tabriz in 2010. Some $1.2 billion is to be allocated to implement the project.
The Iranian government allocated $900 million for the prevention of Lake Urmia's drying up in September 2011.
Also, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has allocated $135 million to Iran to resolve environmental problems with shoaling of the lake.