“The scientific evidence tells us that much of the water which enters the Urmia basin can still be allowed to flow naturally to the Lake – re-charging it and re-energizing its communities while we set aside enough to feed agriculture and industry,” said the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative at a signing ceremony bringing US$ 1 million to address Lake Urmia’s plight. “It is a question of balance. This problem can be solved.”
The US$ 1 million comes from Japan. The ceremony took place on 5 May at the Department of Environment (DoE) with the presence of Vice-President and Head of DoE, Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, with Mr. Akira Chiba, Charge D’affairs of the Embassy of Japan, the media and UN officials.
At the event, DoE and UNDP signed an agreement through which the Japanese grant took effect.
“Due to the critical condition of Lake Urmia and as a result of meetings between Iranian President, Dr. Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe in New York, last September when co-operation related to environmental issues were discussed, the Government of Japan decided to contribute to the restoration of Lake Urmia by providing this grant to UNDP” said Mr. Chiba.
Dr. Ebtekar also spoke during the ceremony stating: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Japan for this generous gesture. The grant will be implemented as a new component of the ongoing Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project which UNDP is already undertaking in partnership with DoE.”
Once one of the largest salt-water lakes in the world, Urmia has been shrinking at an alarming rate. The project is planned for completion in February 2015. Within this timeframe, the new component project will aim to achieve three objectives:
- Introduce sustainable agriculture practices to 40 villages in Lake Urmia’s basin which will result in a water-saving of at least 35%.
- Raise local community awareness and an understanding of their important role in using sustainable agricultural techniques and in restoring Lake Urmia.
- Review water-harvesting options and have at least one pilot in three key islands of Lake Urmia. This will contribute to ensuring a sustainable water supply for conserving biodiversity.
Japan is one of UNDP’s top 5 donors globally.