Japan makes third contribution to support restoration efforts in Lake Urmia

Apr 5, 2016

Water shortage is one of the greatest global environmental threats.  

Here in Iran, the devastating situation in Lake Urmia is now one of the most serious environmental challenges.  The surface of Lake Urmia – Iran's largest salt lake – has shrunk by 90 percent over the last decade.  The result is an exposed bed of salt which endangers the economy and health of the residents of the surrounding areas.  Over 5 million people live in the Urmia basin.

During the past two years, the Government of Japan has generously contributed US$ 2 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the Department of Environment (DoE) and UNDP’s restoration efforts in Lake Urmia.   

Today, a signing-ceremony for the third phase of joint cooperation between DoE, Government of Japan and UNDP took place in Tehran in the presence of Vice-President and Head of Iran’s Department of Environment, Madam Ebtekar, Minister of the Embassy of Japan, Mr. Hirofumi Wakabayashi and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Gary Lewis along with other government officials and the media.

  Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice-President and Head of Iran's Department of Environment (left) and Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative (right)

This third contribution by the Government of Japan will continue to focus on implementing sustainable agriculture around the Lake Urmia basin with special focus on water saving and through this action ensuring that farmers livelihoods are sustained and even improved.

The technique being supported by the project and being used by local farmers is Urmia is called Integrated Participatory Crop Management (IPCM).  This process has resulted in a water-saving of 35% which, in turn, has allowed the “saved” water to return to the lake, thus replenishing it.  As a result of the success of this initiative, the project will continue on to its third phase.  

Speaking at the signing-ceremony, Mr. Wakabayashi said: “We understand that the restoration of Lake Urmia will not happen overnight.  But we – the Government of Japan – stand committed to continue to support the restoration efforts and to partner with the Government of Iran and UNDP for the betterment of the lives of people residing near the lake.”

  Signing-ceremony at the Department of Environment held on 5 April

Mr. Lewis who also spoke at the event, stated that: “We need to focus on the agriculture sector to save water and divert more water to the thirsty lake.  We’ve practiced and will continue – during this third year – an active and effective participatory process.”

Mr. Lewis added: “In this process local communities, farmers and community-based organizations have a huge role to play.  We also work with provincial and national authorities like DoE to produce change for the better.”

The UNDP Resident Representative then focused on the goals for the third phase of this project which are to continue to promote and implement sustainable agriculture – through integrated natural resource management which will result in saving water in favour of Lake Urmia restoration and it will also reduce chemical use and pollution to benefit both the environment and the health of farmers.  At the same the project will implement direct biodiversity conservation initiatives through social mobilization and pilot biodiversity projects.

Concluding the ceremony, Madam Ebtekar said: “The Conservation of Iranian Wetlands project and its success since 2005 paved the way for cooperation between the three parties and the implementation of Lake Urmia project.”

Vice-President and the Head of DoE added: “Environmental challenges are global challenges and in order to overcome issues and threats like those which Lake Urmia faces, international cooperation is needed.  This collaboration illustrates peace, friendship and cooperation which is much needed around the globe to overcome environmental challenges.  We are thankful for the dedication and the support of the Government of Japan and UNDP.”

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