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Iran to soon open water transfer tunnel to revive Lake Urmia

File photo shows a vessel on a dried-up part of the Lake Urmia located in northwestern Iran.

Iranian Energy Ministry authorities say a water transfer tunnel meant to revive Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran will start operating soon.

Deputy energy minister for water affairs Mohammad Javanbakht said on Monday that the 36-kilometer Kanisib project was in its final phases and that water will reach Lake Urimia within the next few months.

Javanbakht said the project will allow the transfer of five cubic meters of water per second from the Kanisib Dam, located near the border with Iraq, to the Lake.

The announcement came days after environmental advocates warned about the deteriorating situation in Lake Urmia, a large salt lake which has shrunk in size and water supply because of repeated spells of drought, damming and groundwater pumping in surrounding areas.

Local officials in Iran’s province of West Azerbaijan, where the Lake is located, said in March that the surface area of Lake Urmia had shrunk by nearly a third over one year to reach 2,324 kilometers. The amount of water in the Lake has also decreased by less than a half to around three billion cubic meters.

The drying up of Lake Urmia has caused major dust storms in Iran in recent years.

Javanbakht said the Iranian Energy Ministry is intent on finishing the water transfer project to Lake Urmia.

He said the Ministry will purchase lands near the Kanisib Dam to allow an expansion of the reservoir and to ensure that the supply of water to the Lake will remain stable.

He said river dredging and other operations will continue in the meantime until the project is finished.

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