Since hundreds of years, Lake Urmia, Iran’s biggest domestic lake in its northwestern region of Azerbaijan, has been nourishing the fertile plains around it. Farmers have been drilling wells, using the ground water fed by the lake, house owners used to rent their property to Azerbaijani, Russian or Iranian tourists alike. Flamingos have been feeding from the salt lakes only natural inhabitant, small crabs, for centuries. Tourists resorts and hotels around the lake mushroomed.
Unfortunately, due to catastrophic misuse of water and cutting the supply rivers, lake Urmia is shrinking since decades. Tourism is dying slowly, and where ever the lake vaporizes, it leaves behind a salty, impenetrable crust. With the wind blowing, the salt gets spread big distances over the area, and the amounts of salt in the air has become so massive, that it can be proven now even in the capital Tehran. With Western Iran being a mainly agricultural area, the desertification of the lake, reshapes the whole region: When the wind is pouring salt on the soil and it starts to rain, the ground becomes infertile, leaving the farmers without any source of income.
Only since president Hassan Ruhani, counter-measures have been slowly put into effect. Some scientists say, it’s already too late, others are more optimistic. Meanwhile, the desertification of the lake accelerates every year.