Iran has denied reports suggesting the country is purposefully neglecting Lake Urmia to be able to extract lithium from the shrinking body of water in future.
“Rumors going on these days about the intentional failure to protect Lake Urmia for (the purpose of) lithium extraction is a sheer lie,” Seyyed Salman Zaker, a lawmaker representing the northwestern city of Urmia in the Iranian parliament, told reports on Thursday.
The remarks came after a report by the Persian service of the state-run Voice of America said there is a possibility that saltwater lakes in Iran, including Lake Urmia, have been intentionally neglected in recent years as they are major sources of lithium, a metal in high demand in international markers.
Zaker, who chairs a parliament inquiry into Lake Urmia Restoration Program, said Iran has spent huge funds on Lake’s revival over the past decade which shows that the country is serious in its efforts to protect the lake and to prevent an environmental catastrophe that could be caused by its drying-up.
A former head of the Iranian Department of Environment has estimated that Iran will need some $1 trillion to evacuate cities near Lake Urmia that could become uninhabitable if the lake is fully dried up.
Zaker said claims about alleged lithium mining plans for Lake Urmia are politically-motivated and are orchestrated from outside Iran to provoke separatism among the ethnic Azeri community living in the region where the lake is located.