The reasons for the replenishment are threefold: first the deliberate release of water from dams. Second, the canal drainage to un-silt the feeder rivers. Third, better water management among the farming communities nestled in the Lake Urmia basin. It is this latter effort which is likely to be the most impactful in the long run. And this is where the combination of local, national and international efforts has been concentrated.
The work is centred on a project undertaken by UNDP and funded by Japan which seeks to promote ecosystem management of the farming techniques and thereby save water. This project has just benefitted from another generously contribution of US$ 1 million from Japan. This brings the total funding from Japan to $4m in 4 years.
The signing ceremony for the 4th phase of the project took place on 9th April at the Department of Environment (DOE) in the presence of Vice-President and Head of DOE, Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Deputy Ambassador of Japan to Iran, Mr. Hideo Suzuki and the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran, Mr. Gary Lewis.
The contribution is implemented as a component of UNDP’s ongoing Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project – a project in which UNDP is partnering with Iran’s Department of Environment.
The project has been active for many years, but engagement with communities to start the new farming practices started in earnest 4 years ago with the original Japanese grant.
Speaking at the ceremony. Mr. Lewis said: “I have been privileged to live in Iran for four years and during this period I have visited Lake Urmia multiple times and I have been able to witness the changing situation of the lake with my own eyes.”
He added: “The first time I visited the lake I was shocked. I saw dry, empty, white salt-bed. I heard wind howling. I saw it blowing the salt all around and dumping on the agriculture lands beyond the lake, all around the edges. But six weeks a when I went back, I saw something different. Returning to the barren landscape after almost four years, I was able to see water. Not nearly enough, but much more than last time. The lake is reviving. And this revival is the result of an immensely successful collaborative effort involving many players – some Iranian, some foreign. Life has returned to the dying Salt Lake and the effort to restore what had been broken is succeeding.”
Mr. Lewis then shared some data with the attendees and referred to the lake dimensions in the years 1997, 2013 and 2017 to illustrate the improving situation. Please see below table for facts and figures.