Lake Oroumieh, the largest lake in Iran and one of the largest saltwater lakes on the planet, has shrunk more than 80 percent in the past decade, but the nation's president, Hassan Rouhani, is now making it a priority to save the lake from drying up.
Rouhani is tackling some of the long-standing environmental problems that are causing the lake, which has been a popular spot for tourists and a key refuge for migrating wildlife, to disappear, reported the Associated Press. Intensive irrigation, the damming of rivers that flow into Lake Oroumieh, and the effects of climate change, have all contributed to the problem, and experts caution that, if left unaddressed, the lake could run dry within two years, according to the AP.
Rouhani's cabinet appointed a rescue team to oversee the efforts, and proposals for how to save the lake in northwestern Iran have been solicited. The team is expected to settle on a final strategy by May, according to the AP.
"Rouhani stands by his campaign to promise to revive the lake," Isa Kalantari, who was appointed by the president to lead the rescue team, said at a conference this week, according to the AP. "Don't blame nature and drought. Human beings, not climate change, are responsible for this situation. We dried up the lake because of our excessive demands and wrong methods. Now, we have to revive it ourselves. Five million people have to leave this region if the lake dies."