the world’s sixth largest saltwater lake, Lake Urmia, lost in the
desolate mountains of northwestern Iran, has begun shrinking. As the
lake has dried up and its shores have started to recede, the
surrounding land has begun to die, causing an unprecedented
near the Turkish border between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and
West Azerbaijan, Lake Urmia has been vanishing for three decades.
region is home to the Iranian-Azeri community, who depend on the lake
for their livelihoods, and have been left devastated by its retreat.
The ecological disaster has only further fuelled long-standing
political resentment among the minority, which demands more cultural,
economic and political rights, with tensions previously boiling over
and people taking to the streets to urge the government to act.
an attempt to develop and modernise Iran after the 1979 Islamic
Revolution, President Mohammad Khatami launched a large building
programme that was later continued by his successor, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. Overall, 70 dams were built on the rivers feeding Lake
Urmia to supply water for the growing Iranian agricultural industry.
In addition, more than 24,000 wells were illegally dug by villagers
around the northwest region, further increasing the demise of Lake
the lake began to die, so too did the hubbub of tourists' cars and
the noise of shipping trucks that were once abundant. These days few
outsiders venture here. Those who do are shocked to see abandoned
boats that have been left as rusty scraps and look like stranded
carcasses corroding away on the salty bottom.