Petition for the Restoration of Lake Urmia
271 people signed this petition
Lake Urmia is the Middle East's largest saltwater lake in Iran and the world's sixth largest. Once spanning 5,200 square kilometers with a length of 140 kilometers, it boasted over 30 billion cubic meters of water in the early 1990s. Today, however, Lake Urmia is alarmingly close to complete desiccation.
Although officials sometimes attribute the lake's diminishing state to factors like climate change and reduced rainfall, research from North American scholars has shown that drought has only resulted in a 5% decrease in rainfall for the lake's catchment area. The primary culprits of its depletion are extensive dam constructions, an 11-kilometer embankment, and the 1,709-meter-long Shahid Kalantari bypass bridge. The construction processes of these infrastructures have disrupted the lake's natural water flow and, consequently, its ecosystem.
In addition to the mentioned infrastructures, constructing dams across rivers flowing into Lake Urmia has significantly reduced its water inflow. Though exact numbers vary, it's clear that the water accumulation behind these dams has contributed to the lake's current crisis.
The emphasis on dam construction, driven by an ambition for "self-sufficiency" in agriculture by the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has had unintended consequences. The catchment area of Lake Urmia has seen a 437% increase in irrigated agricultural land over the past two decades. Yet, this growth has neither boosted the GDP of East and West Azerbaijan provinces, which house 90% of the lake's catchment area, nor has it countered unemployment-induced migration from these provinces. Inefficient agricultural practices, consuming 90% of the country's water resources annually, contribute to only 11% of the national production.
The degradation of Lake Urmia is not only an environmental concern but also a public health issue. An estimated 13 billion tons of salt rests at the lakebed. As this salt gets airborne due to winds, it poses severe health risks to local residents, threatening their physical and mental well-being. This could lead to the eventual migration of millions from cities surrounding Lake Urmia.
We, the undersigned, urgently appeal to the authorities to address the agricultural challenges in the Lake Urmia catchment area, take decisive actions to restore the lake, and halt its further decline.