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Photos: Lake Urmia Turns Red


Photos by Majid Rostami, Mehr News Agency

Iranian Parliament calls for immediate attention to save Lake Urmia

Twenty Majlis lawmakers have written a letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for immediate action to save Lake Urmia and prevent the environmental degradation of the body of water. The surface of the salt water lake recently turned red due to a phenomenon known as red tide.

Experts have long warned that natural factors, coupled with human activity, will cause Lake Urmia to dry up in the near future if nothing is done.

Meanwhile, the deputy director of Iran's Environmental Protection Organization has said evaporation due to microscopic changes in magnesium compounds in the water turned the lake red.

"Salts containing magnesium in the lake have been concentrated as a result of the evaporation process. Such compounds give the water a red tone," Mohammad-Baqer Sadouq told the Mehr News Agency on Wednesday.

Declining rainfall, climate change, and rising temperatures are accelerating the evaporation process at the lake, Sadouq noted.

Environmentalist Masoud Baqerzadeh-Karimi has dismissed the claim that wastewater is the cause of the rare red tide phenomenon, adding that if that were the case, the lake water would have turned red many years ago.

The director of the West Azarbaijan Province Department of the Environment, Hassan Abbasnejad, believes that a type of algae is responsible for the red tides.

"Dunaliella salina is a type of algae that creates a red substance in order to adapt to salty environments and survive," he explained.

Lake Urmia (Orumiyeh) is a salt lake in northwestern Iran near Turkey. The lake is between the provinces of East Azarbaijan and West Azarbaijan, west of the southern portion of the similarly shaped Caspian Sea. It is the largest lake inside Iran, and the second salt water lake on earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km square (2,000 mile square).


Lake Orumiyeh from space, 2003 (source NASA)

Lake Urmia, which is located in northwestern Iran, has a surface area of approximately 5,200 square kilometers.

UNESCO has registered Lake Urmia as a Biosphere Reserve, and it is listed as a wetland of international importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention.

It is one of the largest natural habitats for the tiny Artemia, which is a genus of aquatic crustacean that serves as a food source for flamingos and other migratory birds.

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