Warm Rally in Cold Winter Day to Save Dying Lake Urmia
Vancouver, Canada – Nov. 21 – 2010.
The Campaign to Save Lake Urmia held a rally in Vancouver city, Canada on Nov. 21, 2010 demanding the international organizations and the Iranian government to take an immediate action to save Lake Urmia. Lake Urmia, an ancient natural wonder located in Northwestern Iran (Between West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan Provinces) needs urgent attention. The Lake is registered as Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and listed as a wetland of international importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention. Blatant neglect of this historical lake, however, has turned it into the most horrifying environmental disasters in the Middle East.
Lake Urmia holds one of the world’s richest bio-diversity— More than 211 species of birds such as flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, and gulls, 41 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, and 27 species of mammals such as yellow deer inhabit the lake. It is the world’s second largest salt-deposit, holding 8 billion cubic metric tons. Unfortunately, the last decade has witnessed an unprecedented desiccation of the Lake to an unrecognizable size. Over the last several years, Lake Urmia has shrunk significantly and its depth has fallen by seven meters. According to experts, with the current rates of desiccation, the lake might disappear within next 3 to 5 years releasing a vast amount of salt into the area. This turns into an ecological catastrophe not only in Azerbaijani cities of Iran but also, in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Armenia. It will force many people to abandon their villages and towns around the lake and a vast majority of the flora and fauna will be lost permanently. Research also shows that drought conditions after 1999 and a lack of efficient water management by the Iranian government are contributing factors to the lake’s continued desiccation.
More than 60 participants representing Azerbaijani, Iranian and Canadian communities, environmental activists, and other concerned citizens attended the event, demanding the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Iranian Government to take immediate actions to fulfill their commitments to preserve Lake Urmia. The participants held banners and chanted slogans such as “Lake Urmia Needs You,” “Lake or Salt Desert,” “Take Immediate Action,” and “Lake Urmia is Thirsty.”
One of the participants, Amir Najafi, who is originally from Urmia city located next to the lake, claimed that the results of the catastrophe is already evident in the agricultural farms and plantations around the lake. According to Mr. Najafi, grape plantations are already dying in vast amounts due to high salty water and salt toxicity. “If it continues with the currently rate, soon no agricultural product will grow in the areas close to the lake,” claimed Mr. Najafi.
Representatives of the general public in Vancouver demonstrated strong interest in the rally. Many people gathered around the demonstrators, asked them numerous questions about Lake Urmia, current conditions of the lake, reasons for the disaster, and potential consequences of the desiccation. Many representatives of the general public also endorsed goals of the campaign by signing the petition.
The event was finished with reading the official statement of the rally.