UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service Bulletin Focuses on Lake Urmia, Iran

UNEP27 February 2012: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Environmental Alert Service (GEAS) has released the February edition of its bulletin, which focuses on Lake Urmia, a hypersaline lake in Iran. The bulletin was produced under the theme of climate change, resource efficiency, ecosystem management, and environmental governance, and focuses on the drying of Lake Urmia and its environmental consequences.  

According to UNEP GEAS, the lake's surface area has declined from 6,100 km² in 1995, to 2,366 km² in 2011. It warns that continued decline will lead to increased salinity, collapse of the lake's food chain and ecosystem, loss of wetland habitat, wind-blown "salt-storms," and local climatic alteration, resulting in serious negative impacts on local agriculture, livelihoods and regional health.

The bulletin outlines two possible approaches to addressing the lake's decline, namely: adjusting water allocation within the basin to allow an adequate environmental flow for sustaining Lake Urmia; and/or importing water from outside the basin to increase water levels and dilute salinity concentrations within the lake.

Cloud-seeding is also highlighted as a possibility, but the bulletin notes that the method is controversial and uncertain. A comprehensive integrated water management plan is recommended to take all elements of the basin's water budget into account, balancing demands for irrigation, ecosystem preservation, social and human impact and water quality, as well as operating within the national and regional political realities. [Publication: UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service February 2012]