Environment officials claim Urmia Lake restoration on track

Financial Tribune- The head of the Department of Environment’s office in East Azarbaijan Province said efforts to restore Urmia Lake are progressing as scheduled.

Speaking to ISNA, Hamid Qasemi also said on Monday that Urmia Lake “will reach ecological balance by 2023”.

While 2023 was originally set as the year in which the imperiled lake would be restored completely, experts with the Urmia Lake Restoration Program have said the program will miss the target.

While the lake’s restoration has been progressing very well, lack of funding threatens to undo all the hard work put into it.

The volume of water in the lake has more than doubled since 2013, when the ULRP was formed by President Hassan Rouhani.

In February, ULRP chief, Isa Kalantari, announced that the project would miss the target.

“We are aware of the government’s financial constraints and do not intend to put the administration under pressure, but we are bound to inform the public and the president that the situation is dire,” he said.

According to Masoud Tajrishi, ULRP’s deputy for planning, lack of funds has led to the suspension of 80% of restoration projects.

The ULRP set out to stabilize the lake’s water level (Phase 1) before embarking on the more challenging task of restoring its water level to what it was more than a decade ago (Phase 2).

The first phase was completed last September and the second phase started shortly after, with the initial goal of increasing the water level by 40 centimeters in a year.  The target is to restore the ecological level (1,274 meters above sea level) within 10 years.

In September, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Iran, Japan and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to help revive the imperiled lake in northwestern Iran, with Tokyo pledging to provide $3.8 million for restoration efforts in the next four years.