By Sara Rajabova
Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian has said restoring Lake Urmia, which is experiencing its worst drought condition for many years, will take some 10-15 years, the Mehr news agency reported on January 8.
Lake Urmia is located in northwest Iran.
The Iranian government will continue taking measures on the restoration of Lake Urmia, Chitchian said.
He called the political and promotional statements on Lake Urmia unreal, empty promises. "It's treason towards people," Chitchian said in a meeting with Iran's East Azerbaijan Provinces` MPs.
Chitchian went on to say that uncontrolled development of agricultural areas around the Lake Urmia is the main reason for the lake's drying up, adding that if agricultural water consumption isn't managed properly, the Lake Urmia will never be revived.
He said agricultural areas around the Lake have increased from 150,000 hectares to 480,000 hectares in recent years.
Chitchian further added that the areas consume some 3.1 billion cubic meters of water per each year, noting the figure is exactly equal to the needed water for the lake's revival.
Climatic changes are another reason which led Lake Urmia to dry up, Chitchian said.
He said the average temperature has increased by 1-2 degrees, while annual rainfall has decreased.
"I asked the president Hassan Rouhani to appoint a certain person to handle the project aimed at revival of the lake," Chitchian said.
Rouhani criticized previous policy on the lake on January 7, saying it's necessary to pursue the projects for the lake's survival.
"If the lake dries up, this kind of threat will not be comparable to any other threat," he said, adding that millions of citizens will be forced to emigrate from the nearby areas.
Rouhani has established a working group to tackle the issue of saving Lake Urmia.
Rohani also signed special instruction to suspend work on the construction of the dam around Lake Urmia.
The shoaling problem of Lake Urmia is a matter of concern not only to the Iranian government, but also to the other countries and international organizations of the world.
UN Resident Coordinator Gary Lewis in October 2013 proposed ways to prevent the death of the world's largest saltwater lake, the Lake Urmia.
Lewis warned in his report that the slow death of the Lake Urmia signals a warning for the future.
Over 70 percent of Lake Urmia's water has dried up. The level of the water has been declining since 1995.
Iranian media outlets earlier quoted deputy Director of Iran's Water Resources Management Company, Yaqoub Hemmati, who said that water input to the catchments of the Lake Urmia has decreased by 46 percent compared to the long-term average value which indicates that reviving Lake Urmia is impossible.
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 to prevent 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.