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Urmia Lake input decreases

17 March 2015 14:22 (UTC+04:00)
Urmia Lake input decreases

The volume of water input to Iran ’s northwestern Urmia Lake has been decreased by 100 percent in past two decades, Masoud Tajrishi, an official with the National Committee for Lake Urmia Restoration said.

The volume was over five billion cubic meters till 1991, he said, adding it started falling and decreased to 2.5 billion cubic meters during two decades.

Lake Urmia’s area is about 6,000 square kilometers. The lake has already dried up by 90 percent. The level of water in the Lake Urmia started decreasing in 1995.

Currently, the water level in the lake stands at 1274 meters , Tajrishi said. “Each liter of water in the lake contains around 250 grams of salt.”

Earlier, this figure amounted to 160- 170 grams per liter.

The official further said that the lake experiences its most critical situation in recent 100 years, Iran ’s official IRNA news agency reported March 17.

Reduction of almost 17 percent of the catchments area and increasing the under cultivation area around the sea as well as the temperature increase by two degrees Celsius are the main factors behind the decline of the lake's water, Tajrishi explained.

The agricultural lands in Urmia Lake catchments have been extended from 300,000 to 490,000 hectares , he said.
Meanwhile the precipitation decreased from 385 millimeters in 1991 to 317 millimeters in 2012, he added.

He further said that renewable water capacity in the Lake catchments has decreased by 20 percent from 8.875 billion cubic meters to seven billion cubic meters.

The amount of solar radiation in the region has increased 4.5 times as a result of the lake’s water level decline, he said, adding the issue can lead to an increase in various health problems such as cataracts and cancer as well as infectious and respiratory diseases.

Lake Urmia needs 12 billion cubic meters of water to return its normal water level, he added.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani set up the working group -Committee for Urmia Lake Restoration- for saving Lake Urmia in the first cabinet meeting in 2013.The committee prepared a 9-year plan to restore the lake, with 2023 being the year when the lake would have been completely restored.

The proposal suggests some measures on reduction of water consumption in the agriculture sector as well as transferring water from other regions into the lake.

However some Iranian experts believe that the measures which maybe efficient in reviving the lake such as prohibiting unauthorized use of surface and groundwater, limiting groundwater use by local farmers and transferring water from other catchments including Araz River are impractical and will lead to serious social tensions.

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