By Sara Rajabova
Iran, which has been searching over many years for a solution to the shoaling problem of Lake Urmia in north-west of the country, considers different ways of reviving the lake.
Now it is mulling transfer of water from its north-western neighbor Armenia and Georgia.
An Iranian parliament member has said water from Georgia and Armenia will save world's largest salt lake, the Lake Urmia, which is on verge of full drying today.
“Agreements on the issue have already been signed and water from Georgia and Armenia's Kera Fountains and Sevan Lake will be pumped using three pumping stations in the way, all three of which are in the Iranian territory,” said MP Ali Alilu, IRNA news agency reported.
The area of Lake Urmia is the third largest salt water lake on earth, with a 6,000 square kilometers surface. During the migrations of birds, the lake becomes their temporary home. Over 70 percent of Lake Urmia's water has dried up. The level of water has been declining since 1995.
The lake's drying up has had an impact on the fauna and flora of the region. Experts on environmental issues warned that the measures taken by the Iranian government are not merely enough to save the lake.
Alilu said transferring water from the Caspian Sea is not economically viable firstly, due to the high pollution of its water today and secondly, due to the high cost of such a water transfer project.
“The 36 billion cubic meter water of Lake Urmia has decreased down to two billion cubic meters today and the entry of a portion of Iran's Aras River and a number of less important rivers will not suffice for saving it,” he said.
Alilu went on to say that the major parts of the water transfer project need to be implemented in Iran and it is predicted that it will be finalized within two years.
He added that the water will be both bought and bartered from those two countries and the entrance volume of water to Iran will be 60 to 80 cubic meters per second.
Issa Kalantari, the secretary of the Urmia Lake Restoration Committee earlier said over 1.6 quadrillion rials ($57.14 billion based on official rate of 28,000 rials per each $) is needed for reviving Lake Urmia. He said should the needed funds be allocated, the lake could be restored by 2023
Alilu further emphasized that President Hassan Rouhani's government, and especially his Department of Environment, headed by Masoumeh Ebtekar has acted very successfully in their bid to save the Lake Urmia.
“If the drying trend of Lake Urmia would have continued unheeded as it was during the previous government, very soon five provinces would have faced serious environmental hazards, inclusive of a grave human catastrophe,” the MP warned.
Alilu said therefore, investments to save the lake are in fact to be viewed as national investments to save the environment, the human lives and the agriculture in six Iranian provinces.
The volume of water input to Lake Urmia has decreased by 100 percent in the past two decades, according to Iranian officials.
The volume of water stood at over five billion cubic meters until 1991. It then started falling and decreased to 2.5 billion cubic meters over two decades.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani set up the working group -Committee for Urmia Lake Restoration- for saving Lake Urmia in a 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.