As I learned in UNDP-IG workshops,
IG has 4 components (economic, sociological, environmental and good
governance). Usually in the developing countries,
economic component of the development
would be considered more(for achieving rapid growth). Most of
environmental crisis and disasters would be happened after such a rapid
growth and unbalanced development. Based on the existing studies and reports (and also time series
of satellite images), during the last 2 decades (since 1995 till now),
area of Urmia Lake has been reduced to about one third of its natural
condition (from 6000 square kilometers to almost
2000 km^2). It is very interesting that this issue is concide with the
development plans of Iran government especially after the Iraq’s war.
Main activities or causative factors in the basin of Urmia Lake are as the followings:
- Sectoral planning (lack of
integrated planning) and trying to improve livelihood condition of the
local communities mostly by agricultural development (during 3 decades
after Islamic revolution in
Iran, the area of the arable lands in the basin has become 3 times;
from 150000 ha to 450000 ha).
- Dam construction in
upstream (so far 72 dams are under operation and 20 more dams are under
study & design) for domestic and irrigation water supply.
- Over explotation of under
ground water by drilling illegal wells (drilling wells without getting
government permission). Nowadays, more than 53000 illegal wells are
exist in the basin. Some of them
are around the wetlands (fresh water near to Urmia lake) and are
extracting/draining fresh water from wetlands so there is more intrusion
of salin water from the lake to groun water resources.
- Because of some consideration, crop pattern has been chaged from
grape (that needs less water) to apple and “Sugar beet” (which needs more water).
- Partitioning of the lake by road construction in the middle part of the lake (which has caused changes in hydrologic regime of the lake and as a result, changing
chemical sedimentation phenomenon of the lake minerals).
Land use change (destruction of the rangelands) and Land degradation in upstream so less potential for infiltration and ground water recharge.
- In addition to human activities and intervention, few natural factors such as
Climate change and drought has
accelerated the crisis by reducing the input to the lake and more
evaporation from the lake surface because of shallow water depth and
Because of the critical condition in the region (dust and salt storm which is
very dangerous and harmful for the people), Government is willing to find a quick solutions for restoration of almost dried lake.
believes that ecosystem, ecology and hydrology of Urmia lake is very
complex and unknown so any restoration plan for it should be prepared
very carefully and after doing
required studies/researches, data collection and also developing proper
simulation to evaluate the result of any action in the upstream basin
or in the lake, itself.
I am very worry about the
quick decision of government
in portioning of the lake bed for temporary restoration (step by step
partitioning of lake bed and providing required water for restoration
without considering its ecological and
environmental consequences). Although everybody says that an
integrated approach should be considered in this process but
because of political will, I am afraid we will face with a bigger and
more serious and costly crisis in near future (I am sure it will have a
lot of regional negative side effects and if we
consider migration of the birds, it will have globally effects as well).
Since one of the main duties of UNDP is in the field of capacity building and knowledge sharing so I think
UNDP should consider this issue seriously and try to convince/aware high policy/decision makers about the consequences of such interventions or quick plans.
Seyed Abolfazl Mirghasemi
Dear Mr Mirghassemi,
Thankyou for your very
informative comments on Lake Urmia – and I also realize that you are
now somehow part of the Lake Urmia task force. We in UNDP fully
agree that the basis of such problems in today globalized world is lack
of inclusive growth planning – and the push for sole wealth creation
without due regard for social and environment consequences. We have also
previously discussed/developed together
such ideas and solutions while you were NPD of MENARID (and these have
now been adopted by the project/FRWO). Please do provide us with your
views on very specific ways in which we can introduce inclusive growth
methods, solutions, programmes and mechanisms
into the Lake Urmia initiative – that may help to ensure sustainability
of the broader watershed (perhaps and especially participatory water
harvesting methods). The impression I get is that the focus of the task
force is still on physical dimensions and water
usage in production – while inclusive growth planning frameworks and
related mechanisms may perhaps prove more useful.