Japan Contributes Funds to Help Save Shrinking Lake in Iran

May 06, 2014 8:05 am ET

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- Japan is contributing funds to help save Lake Urmia, one of the Middle East’s largest lakes that has shrunk by 85 percent the past two decades as dams were built and farmers diverted too much water for crops.

A deal signed by the United Nations Development Programme and Iran’s Department of Environment will provide $1 million to the UNDP office in Tehran to manage area waters more efficiently, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The lake in northwest Iran has lost size and depth as waters were siphoned off for grains and fruit and amid climate change, state-run Mehr news agency said last month. “Historic” shortages from overusing tap water to farmers drilling wells illegally has prompted President Hassan Rouhani to call for a national water-conservation plan.

The average depth of water in Lake Urmia when it covered 5,000 square kilometers was 6 meters (20 feet). Now that’s only 1 meter, IRNA said.

UNDP in partnership with Iran’s Department of Environment is working on a program to conserve Iran’s wetlands, IRNA said yesterday. The project relating to Lake Urmia will seek to introduce sustainable agriculture practices to 40 villages that would lead to a 35 percent water savings, it said.

The project, set to be completed by February 2015, will also review water-harvesting options, IRNA said. Managing water remains one of Iran’s main environmental challenges, according to Gary Lewis, the United Nations resident coordinator in Iran.