Iranian police have arrested several people on charges of breaching security after they protested the drying up of a lake, official media said on Sunday.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, Lake Urmia, in the mountains of northwestern Iran, began shrinking in 1995 due to a combination of prolonged drought and the withdrawal of water for farming and dams.
Urmia, one of the world’s largest “hypersaline” – or super saline – lakes, is located between the cities of Tabriz and Urmia, with more than six million people dependent on agriculture around its shores.
On Sunday, Rahim Jahanbakhsh, the police chief of Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, reported the arrest.
According to state news agency IRNA, he described the suspects as “multiple rogue and hostile elements who had no other purpose than to destroy public property and disrupt the safety of the population.”
On Saturday, Fars news agency reported that “dozens of people in the cities of Nagdeh and Urmia had protested against the authorities’ lack of attention to the drying up of Lake Urmia.”
Fars said protesters raised slogans in the provincial capital Urmia and warned that the lake was shrinking.
“Lake Urmia is dying, Parliament ordered to kill it”, some shouted, Fars reported, others said “Lake Urmia is thirsty.”
The largely arid Iran, like other nearby countries, has been experiencing years of drought and heat waves, which are expected to be worsened by the effects of climate change.
In the past few months, thousands of people have demonstrated against the drying up of rivers, especially in central and southwestern Iran.
Urmia Lake is an important ecosystem, an important stopping point for migratory birds, and home to an endemic shrimp as well as other underwater species.
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