LAKE URMIA : Protests over lake bring violent response

Source: mesop.de, 22.05.2012
Reports from Iran indicate that tension has gripped the northwestern cities of Tabriz and Oroumiyeh, one day after protests against government inaction about the drying of Lake Oroumiyeh turned violent with police intervention. Azerbaijani activists were rallied to join demonstrations on Monday to protest the drying of Lake Oroumiyeh and the government’s lack of effective action.

Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners reports that police confronted the protesters with batons, colour bombs and tear gas, and arrested at least 100 people. Tabriz is languishing under heavy security measures, especially in the main squares and streets. Last year, scores of protesters were arrested in demonstrations calling for government action to counter the rapidly falling water level in Lake Oroumiyeh. Detainees faced heavy prison terms, flogging and fines.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed the protests, saying the condition of the lake is normal and the water levels fall like this every 500 years.

Lake Oroumiyeh, the largest body of water fully contained in Iran, has now lost half of its water, and in some areas its coast has receded by up to 10 kilometres. Experts have said excessive dam-building along rivers that feed the lake is one of the main contributors to the drying. It is estimated that, at the current rate of drying, the lake will disappear within three years. The Ahmadinejad administration has committed $950 million toward a recovery plan for the lake. However, protesters have been accused of politicizing the environmental woes of Lake Oroumiyeh.

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