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:: Urmia lake crisis is mostly because of lack of Inclusive Growth approach in Iran ::
Dear Dr Farzin
Salaam
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 increased temperature.
 
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.
 
Scientists 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.
 
Best regards
 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.
Regards
Ali Farzin
  
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انجمن سیستم های سطوح آبگیر باران ایران Iranian Rainwater Catchment Systems Association
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