Photos by Nima Dimari, Mehr News Agency
Despite all the promises made by Iranian officials to save Lake Orumieh, the lake's situation is worse than ever. As the lake's water level continues to go down, there is a grim future awaiting it. Experts have long warned that natural factors, coupled with human activity, would cause Lake Orumieh to dry up in the near future if nothing is done.
Lake Urmia (Orumieh) 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 third salt water lake on earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km square (2,000 mile square). ( View Larger Map)
Lake Orumieh is a major barrier between two of the most important cities in West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan provinces, Orumieh and Tabriz. Experts have warned that the construction of a bridge across the lake, together with a series of ecological factors, will eventually lead to the drying up of the lake, turning it into a salt marsh which will directly affect the climate of the region. Lake Orumieh has been shrinking for a long time, with an annual evaporation rate of 0.6m to 1m (24 to 39 inches). Although measures are now being taken to reverse the trend the lake has shrunken by 60 percent and could disappear entirely. The lake's salts are considered to have medical effects, especially as a cure for rheumatism. Lake Orumieh is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Ramsar site.
President issues special order to revive Lake Orumieh
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has instructed the relevant officials and organizations to take the measures necessary to transfer water from the Aras Dam to Orumieh Lake to help revive the body of water, MP Nader Qazipour announced on July 8.
Qazipour, who represents West Azerbaijan Province in the parliament, stated that about 80 percent of the lake has dried up and that the project would be effective and economically viable.
MP says evaporation of Lake Orumieh could cause health hazard
MP Abed Fattahi has warned that the evaporation of Lake Orumieh may cause salt storms that could affect people's health. A salt storm is a low-lying cloud of airborne salt that hovers over large areas, caused by wind sweeping over salt flats.
In an interview with the Persian service of the Mehr News Agency published on Monday, Fattahi, a member of the Majlis Health Committee, said, "Unfortunately, nothing has been done so far to save the lake."
He emphasized that when the lake dries up, the problems may not be limited to the residents of West Azerbaijan Province.
Fattahi, a physician, said that the lake's dried salt can change into small airborne salt particles which, when inhaled in, can cause pulmonary diseases as well as eye and facial cancers.
He called on the government to take action and save the lake.
"If we need to, we will use all national foreign experts to save the lake, because we believe that the lake belongs to all Iranians," he said.
Lake Orumieh, in northwest Iran, is the world's third largest salt water lake. It is drying up mainly due to drought; however locals say they the construction of 35 dams upstream from the lake have contributed to its current condition. The lake has been shrinking for a long time and currently occupies 80 percent of the area it once did.
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