The imperiled Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran has shrunk further, losing another 23 square kilometers (roughly nine square miles) of its surface area within a year, local media reported.
Meanwhile, the deputy Minister of Agricultural Jihad of the Islamic Republic, Ali Akbar Moradi says the volume of annual precipitation in Iran, compared with last year, shows a 50% drop.
Earlier, the provincial head of lake Urmia Restoration Project, Farhad Sarkhosh had disclosed, “On Feb 13, lake Urmia covered 1,856 sq. km (roughly 716 sq. miles) of waterbed, down from 2,104 sq. km (roughly 812 sq. miles) on the same date of last year.
The Islamic Republic’s authorities, have attributed the shrinkage to the significant drop in precipitation across the country.
However, according to the deputy of the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad, the existences of 40,000 illegal wells in the surrounding areas have further complicated the matter.
Five years ago, President Hassan Rouhani and his first cabinet launched a “task force” for the revival of Lake Urmia, a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Nevertheless, the task force has not been successful, so far, and the lake has continued to shrink.
Recently, the Islamic Republic’s Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri suggested that transferring water from the Caspian Sea and foreign resources is being considered as a way to save the depleting lake.
Without giving any details, Jahangiri has also vowed to allocate “Billions of dollars in foreign lines of credit” for the revival of Lake Urmia, if necessary.
Urmia has depleted drastically due to a variety of factors, including the construction of a 15-km causeway to shorten the travel time between Urmia and Tabriz cities and the construction of several dams that have choked off water from the mountains on either side of the lake.
A report compiled by the UN Development Plan (UNDP) says human factors, particularly building numerous dams over the rivers flowing into the lake, have further complicated the fate of the largest inland body of water in Iran.
Nonetheless, the Moradi believes that illegal water wells have played a pivotal role in shrinking Lake Urmia.
Out of more than 350,000 illegal water wells across Iran, more than 40,000 are located around Lake Urmia, Moradi says, adding, “The livelihood of many people is tied to these illegal wells. Therefore, blocking the illegal wells is not an easy task.”
Earlier, the Deputy President, the head of the Department of Environment and former minister of agriculture, Isa Kalantari had accused former President Ahmadinejad of ordering people to drill for water wells wherever they wanted.
“Within three days after Ahmadinejad’s order, the number of licenses for drilling new water wells tripled and thousands of wells were drilled everyday across the country.”