Christian Opp

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Aggradation of the Arai Sea and formation of a big new desert are conse .... able from season to season and year to year (Eimanifar and Mohebbi 2007). The.

ACADEMIC RESEARCH

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ARAL SEA SYNDROME AND LAKE URMIA CRISIS A COMPARISION OF CAUSES, EFFECTS AND STRATEGIES FOR PROBLEM SOLUTIONS Christian Opp, Julia Wagemann, Sharam Banedjschafie and Hamid Abbasi Abstract Protection and sustainable use of water resources are crucial for the survival of humankind. Rapid population growth increases pressure on existing water resources. Access and-supply of potable water, especially in arid and semi-arid areas, are increasingly difficult. In addition, these regions often require a huge amount of water for irrigation and are, due to global warming, prone to extensive dry periods and drought. Limiting water resources, unfavourable climatic conditions and extensive human-environmental interaction lead to irreversible disturbances of unique ecosystems and provoke severe ecological damages. Causes and effects of two current examples of the overuse of water resources within a catchment basin by humankind are pre­ sented and opposed. The most famous example is the Arai Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Within 40 to 50 years 80% of the lake's former extent dried out and turned into a desert, called Aralkum. Within the Lake Urmia catchment in Iran, a similar severe ecological crisis emerges. The lake is in danger of drying up, having only 40% of its former extent. Consequences and lessons learned from the Arai Sea Syndrome should be transferred and adopted to conserve Lake Urmia and its ecosystem in a sustainable way. An Integrated Water Resource Management may be one approach towards a sustainable and long-term solution for Lake Urmia. Thus, direct and indirect negative implications, such as ground water salinization and salt dust storms caus­ ing serious health hazards, affecting over 15 million-people within the catchment area, could be minimized. Keywords: Arai Sea Syndrome, Lake Urmia Crisis, Integrated Water Resource Management, human-environmental conflict

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Introduction

In the last decade, destructive exploitation of available water resources within the Lake Urmia catchment in Iran has led to a severe ecological crisis. The lake is in danger of drying up; its area has already shrunk by 40%, leaving extensive salt plains. Its current severe condition is comparable to the Arai Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and the lake will experience the same fate if sustainable solutions are not found. However, before the term Arai Sea Syndrome may be adapted to the Lake Urmia disaster, following investigations are required: (i) definition of meaning and importance of the syndrome concept, (ii) analysis of the cause-ef-

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Christian Opp, Julia Wagemann, Sharam Banedjschafie and Hamid Abbasi

feet-mechanisms of the Arai Sea disaster and (iii) their comparison with the symp­ toms of the Lake Urmia disaster. Can the lessons learned from the Arai Sea Syn­ drome be transferred to the catchment of Lake Urmia? After "Wissenschatlliche Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveran­ derungen" (WBGU), syndromes are typical cause-effect-patterns of environmen­ tal and development problems with global importance. In consequence of these features, a sustainable development of mankind is endangered. Interactions be­ tween different syndromes can leid either to reinforcement or a triggering of the syndromes. Such syndromes do have a succinct indication, with occurrence also on other places on Earth. Until now officially 16 syndromes or sickness patterns are mentioned. Three groups of global syndromes have been estimated: the group of land use, development, and sinks (Table 1) (WBGU 1998).

Table 1: 16 official syndromes differentiated into three major groups of global syndromes (changed after WBGU 1998) Group Land use

Development

Sinks

Sahel Syndrome -

Arai Sea Syndrome -

High Stack Syndrome -

Agricultural overuse of range1and, in consideration .vith rural poverty

Environmental and development problems caused by centrally planned prestige projects

Degradation of the environment by wide--spread distribution of almost long­ term existing substances

Overexploitation Syndrome Overexploitation of natural resources

Green Revolution Syndrome Ecological and society problems in consequence of non adapted development of agriculture

Rubbish-