Iran’s Magical Lake Oroumieh Is Dying – Photos Of A Manmade Disaster
IRAN is not all gurning mullahs, mentalists and bigots. It is the setting to some stunning landscapes, like Lake Oroumieh (aks Lake Urmia), a landscape of solidified salt in northwestern Iran. Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometres (nearly 400 square miles) in the past decade.
Oroumeih, 370 miles (600 kilometers) northwest of the Islamic Republic’s capital in Tehran, was the largest lake in the Middle East and the world’s third-largest salt lake. In 1977, Unesco declared it a Biosphere Reserve.
It’s shrinking. Since 1999, the lake’s surface area has shrunk from 2,300 square miles to less than 900.
What’s to blame? Well, agriculture accounts for 90 per cent of water use in its 50,000 sq km basin. Rivers are damned. Wetlands that feed the lake are drained.
Along what used to be a lakeshore boulevard, worn-down snack bars and dressing rooms are testament to the days when people from across Iran would come to water-ski on the lake or cover themselves in its black mud, which is said to have healing powers.
About two decades ago, a local villager, Mokhtar Cheraghi, began to notice the water line receding. “First a hundred meters, then two hundred meters. After a while, we couldn’t see the shoreline anymore,” he said, standing in what was once his thriving cafe, Cheraghi’s Beach. “We kept waiting for the water to return, but it never did.”
Most people in the area blame the half-dozen major dams the government has built in the region for the lake’s disappearance. The dams have greatly reduced the flow of water in the 11 rivers that feed into the lake…
The Lake Urmia Conservation Institute has chilling news.
According to Mr. Nadir Gazipour (Iranian MP): (Radio Farda ) 50 villages are completely abandoned and empty due to the drying of Lake Urmia. The parliamentarian said due to the drying of the lake, the surrounding areas have become unfit for living. “People have been obliged to leave 50 villages. If Lake Urmia dries up completely, there will be salt storms in the country. It requires billions of dollars to revive the lake,” he said.
There are accusations that Iran has a plan:
The situation also has major demographics/ethnic roots, implications and impact (Iran’s demographic and ethnicity map as of 2004 is shown in Figure 1). The neighboring areas of the lake are inhabited by Azerbaijani Turks, which account for more than third of Iran’s population (about 30 million people).
The Iranian government has a solid record of abusing minority rights. For example, Azerbaijani Turks, as well as Arabs, Kurds, Balouch, Qashqayi Turks, and other ethnic minorities, do not have the right to read and write in their own language. In recent history this was one of the major sources of instability in Iran. The Iranian government had used various pressure tactics to control and manage the situation, in spite of several cases of ethnic groups uprisings. For example, during 1946 to 1947, the Azerbaijani Turks declared their independence and established the “Azerbaijan People’s Government.” During that same period, the Kurds declared their autonomy and established their government as well. Those autonomous governments were in power for one year only, and collapsed after an invasion by the Iranian army.
Even though those governments collapsed, the fear of similar movements has never faded from the Iranian government’s agenda.
Certain authors, and many Azerbaijani Turks in Iran, believe the Iranian government is intentionally ignoring the drying of Lake Urmia to achieve its geopolitical goals.
Got to love a conspiracy theory.
Iran’s former nutjob -in-residence. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in 2011, when he was still the country’s President”
“Western countries have designed plans to cause drought in certain areas of the world, including Iran. According to reports on climate, whose accuracy has been verified, European countries are using special equipment to force clouds to dump their water on their continent.”
Always easy to blame your enemy for your own failing policies.
The UN adds:
As lake levels decline, the exposed lakebed is left with a covering of salts, primarily sodium chloride, making a great salty desert on much of the 400 km² of lost surface area (Figure 5) (10). These salt flats will not support agriculture and inhibit growth of most natural vegetation. The salts are also susceptible to blowing and will likely create “salt-storms” like the ones that have resulted from the drying of the Aral Sea, located 1 200 km to the northeast of Lake Urmia (10). Blowing salts from the Aral Sea have been linked to vegetation-mortality in some cases or, more frequently, reduced vegetation growth, reduced crop yields, ill effects on wild and domestic animals, respiratory illness, eye problems, and throat and esophageal cancer. Based on the experience of the Aral Sea salt storms, it is likely that many of the tens of millions of people who live within a few hundred kilometres of the lake will be close enough to experience the impact of these salt storms.
Can Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani help? The Times of Israel notes:
Rescuing the lake in northwestern Iran, near the Turkish border, was one of Rouhani’s campaign promises, and his new cabinet promptly decided to form a team to invite scholars to help find solutions. The president is putting an emphasis on tackling long-neglected environmental problems critics say were made worse by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. An engineer with an appetite for giant populist projects, Ahmadinejad pursued policies that led to the expansion of irrigation projects and construction of dams.
“Rouhani stands by his campaign promise to revive the lake,” Isa Kalantari, a popular scholar appointed by Rouhani to lead the rescue team, said at a conference in Oroumieh this week. “Don’t blame nature and drought. Human beings, not climate change, are responsible for this situation. We dried up the lake because of our excessive demands and wrong methods. Now, we have to revive it ourselves. Five million people have to leave this region if the lake dies,” Kalantari said.