Growing Concerns Over Environmental Crisis in Northwest Iran
Lake Oroumieh is one of the world’s largest salt lakes and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The lake is rapidly drying up amid growing concerns over an urgent environmental crisis unfolding in Northwestern Iran.
The London-based Association of Iranian Researchers (“Association des Chercheurs Iraniens” or ACI) in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, dated 30 August 2011, has described the urgency of the crisis. Following are some passages from the ACI letter:
Lake Oroumieh, the world’s third largest salt lake and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is drying up at an alarming rate due to drought, misguided irrigation policies, development and the irresponsible damming of rivers that feed it.
Mentioned as early as 9th century BC in Assyrian text, the lake serves as a natural divide between the major cities of Oroumieh and Tabriz in the provinces of East and West Azerbaijan. It holds 31 billion cubic meters of water with a catchments area of 51876 square kilometers.
A major tourist attraction and national park, the Lake’s 102 rocky islands are home to migrating birds; 27 types of mammals, 212 types of birds, 41 types of reptiles, 7 types of amphibians and 26 types of fish.
Today, there are threats of serious and irreversible damage to Lake Oroumieh, with no real measures to prevent the human and environmental degradation. Since early 1990s, decision makers have not been accountable for policies that have created the present day crisis.
In the recent months environmental activists and ordinary members of public who have protested against these erroneous policies have been arrested and detained in an effort to silence the protest. 300 people have been arrested in the last few days.