Lake Urmia in Iran

by Maximilian Mann

Nonstop (Issue III/2019)


In the 1990s the lake was ten times as big as Lake Constance, but in the meantime eighty percent of the water has disappeared because of the intensive water consumption. Flamingos used to be sighted here. Now they no longer come because they can't find any crabs in the increasingly salty water.

The lake is enormously important for the region and shapes its identity. The nearest town is “Urmia”, which means “town on the water”. The beach is one of the last places you can still swim. Many Iranians spend their free days here. Some take out pedal boats, bathe or enjoy picnics at the shore. I hardly managed to take any pictures at this spot as people constantly invited me to drink tea. Some people rub themselves with the salty mud, which is said to have healing effects.

In recent years, many people have protested about the sinking water level, there have been online campaigns and demonstrations. Slowly the government is reacting: There is a new research institute to probe how the disaster can be stopped. For some people, however, this step comes too late: the small villages on the former shores of the lake are dying out. The region’s future hangs in the balance as there are fewer and fewer tourists and salt winds are destroying the harvest.

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