It's Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Faces Crisis Of Water Supply



It's Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Faces Crisis Of Water Supply

"LAKE URMIA, Iran — After driving for 15 minutes over the bottom of what was once Iran’s largest lake, a local environmental official stepped out of his truck, pushed his hands deep into his pockets and silently wandered into the great dry plain, as if searching for water he knew he would never find.

Just an hour earlier, on a cold winter day here in western Iran, the official, Hamid Ranaghadr, had recalled how as recently as a decade ago, cruise ships filled with tourists plied the lake’s waters in search of flocks of migrating flamingos.

Now, the ships are rusting in the mud and the flamingos fly over the remains of the lake on their way to more hospitable locales. According to figures compiled by the local environmental office, only 5 percent of the water remains.

Iran is facing a water shortage potentially so serious that officials are making contingency plans for rationing in the greater Tehran area, home to 22 million, and other major cities around the country. President Hassan Rouhani has identified water as a national security issue, and in public speeches in areas struck hardest by the shortage he is promising to “bring the water back.”

Experts cite climate change, wasteful irrigation practices and the depletion of groundwater supplies as leading factors in the growing water shortage. In the case of Lake Urmia, they add the completion of a series of dams that choked off a major supply of fresh water flowing from the mountains that tower on either side of the lake.

“Only some years ago the water here was 30 feet deep,” Mr. Ranaghadr said, kicking up dust with each step on the dry lake bed. In the distance, spots of land — once islands where tourists would spend vacations in bungalows overlooking the blue waters — were surrounded by plains of brown mud and sand. “We just emptied it out,” he said with a sigh, stepping back into the car.

Iran’s water troubles extend far beyond Lake Urmia, which as a salt lake was never fit for drinking or agricultural use. Other lakes and major rivers have also been drying up, leading to disputes over water rights, demonstrations and even riots.

Major rivers near Isfahan, in central Iran, and Ahvaz, near the Persian Gulf, have gone dry, as has Hamoun Lake, in the Afghanistan border region. Dust from the dry riverbeds has added to already dangerously high air pollution levels in Iran, home to four of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, the United Nations says.

But nowhere is the crisis more pronounced than at Lake Urmia, once one of the largest salt lakes in the world — at 90 miles long and roughly 35 miles wide, it was slightly larger than Great Salt Lake in Utah. Environmentalists are warning that the dried salt could poison valuable agricultural lands surrounding the lake, and make life miserable for the three million people who live in its vicinity.

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.


Shrinking of Lake Urmia

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The vicious cycle perpetuated by wasteful human activities. The nexus of climate change (destruction), groundwater depletion, wasteful irrigation and dam building is being seen not just in Iran but much of the Middle East and Asia. There is also a lack of education about what climate change is doing to the environment and how wasteful water management only aids in its effects. This is what drove Syria into civil war as thousands suffering from severe drought moved to cities after water sources that once supplied their farms dried up.

The Middle East which is already an arid region has experienced temperature increases of at least 2 degrees over the last two decades. This combined with a rising population precipitates more waste. Lake Turkana in the Kenyan Rift Valley is experiencing the same fate as other bodies of water throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa as more harm than good has come from such water diversion schemes and dams. In countries where solar, wind and other renewable energy sources (not natural gas) can work to provide energy to all, hydropower dams in the numbers we are seeing them in this region of the world are simply not feasible.

This goes beyond a warning. As Britain floods, countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, face a future that is uncertain in regards to water. Proving that no matter where you live in this world be it Iran or California, humans who see water as a resource that will never run out usually face the opposite effects. The solution can only come when we realize our part in this and undo the damage we have done. Instead of governments concentrating so obsessively on gaining control of natural gas pipelines in this region at any cost, more attention should be given to the effects of climate change and water waste on water resources.

Experts warn about deficiencies of project to transfer River Aras water to Lake Urmia

This too illustrates how trying to solve the problem by the same action that led to original problem is self defeating. Doing this will hurt more people who count on the water from the River Aras and there is no guarantee it will solve anything in the end but only make matters worse. Dams built along this route if any should be breached to allow water to flow freely into rivers to alleviate drought. Planting trees if possible would also hold moisture. Conservation efforts must also be made by all.

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