‘I am Lake Urmia’: a social media campaign takes on the environment in Iran

Lake Urmia’s grim destiny reflects a wider trend of enviromental problems in Iran, including an over-reliance on dams, extreme weather patterns, climatic changes, poor irrigation practices and unregulated use of water

Long tucked away behind the mountains of northwest Iran, Lake Urmia is becoming a national symbol of environmental degradation that is eliciting public sensitivity and awareness. Launched at the end of August, the ‘I am Lake Urmia’ campaign is a grassroots effort to collect a million signatures to push the United Nations to discuss ways to revive this salt lake, which has lost 90% of its surface area since the 1970s.

The “I am Lake Urmia” hashtag (من_دریاچه_ارومیه_هستم#) is slowly trending across social media platforms. Actor Reza Kianian was one of the first to take up the call, using Instagram to ask fellow Iranians to take responsibility for the lake. In his post Kianian stressed, “If we save our lake, we will save ourselves”, reminding Iranians of their social responsibility for creating a more sustainable future. Kianian’s plea has echoed across popular apps like Instagram and on the newly formed “I am Lake Urmia” Telegram channel.

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