Archive for September 7th, 2011

Nepali Women Sow a Secure Future

Nepali Women Sow a Secure Future


Posted 07 September 2011, by Sudeshna Sarkar, Inter Press Service (IPS),



KATHMANDU, Sep 7, 2011 (IPS) – Learning a lesson from crop failures attributed to climate change, Nepal’s women farmers are discarding imported hybrid seeds and husbanding hardier local varieties in cooperative seed banks.

“I had a crop failure two years ago,” says Shobha Devkota, 32, from Jibjibe village in Rasuwa, a hilly district in central Nepal which is part of the Langtang National Park, a protected area encompassing two more districts, Nuwakot and Sindhupalchowk.

“The maize was attacked by pests, the paddy had no grain and the soil grew hard. I had a tough time trying to feed my three daughters and sending them to school.”

Since her marriage 17 years ago, Shobha had been sharing farming chores with her husband Ram Krishna. However, when he left for Dubai four years ago to work as a security guard, farming became her responsibility entirely.

Though she has never been to school and can only scrawl her name, Shobha and other women in the village who share similar backgrounds, are keenly aware of changing climate and its adverse impact on livelihoods.

“Daytime temperatures are rising, rainfall has become erratic and there are frequent landslides and hailstorms,” she says.

In 2007, when World Wildlife Fund-Nepal (WWF-Nepal) launched its Langtang National Park and Buffer Zone Support Project to conserve biodiversity and enhance livelihood opportunities by integrated management of land, forest and water resources, it commissioned a study on the impact of climate changes in Rasuwa.

The study by Resource Identification and Management Society-Nepal, after consultations with villagers and analysing data from 1978 to 2007, came up with alarming findings: There was an increase in seasonal, yearly and monthly temperatures in summer and monsoon while winter temperatures were decreasing.

Even more critically for agriculture, the average annual rainfall distribution showed a decreasing trend of nearly one mm per year.

The changes were believed to have led to frequent landslides, droughts, hailstones, and windstorms. In addition, there were frequent outbreaks of diseases like jaundice, typhoid and diarrhea.

Agriculture, the mainstay of the district, was hit by loss of arable land due to landslides, pests and crop diseases.

When WWF-Nepal started consultations with villagers on how to protect water resources and crops, the women pointed out that the indigenous seeds they had used in the past were better suited to the changing weather conditions.

“The local seeds we used could withstand both excessive rain and drought,” says Chandrakumari Paneru, a 27-year-old female farmer from Bhorle village and a university degree holder in a district where almost 60 percent of the population can only sign their names.

“But we had to use hybrid seeds imported from India as local stocks were decreasing. The hybrid seeds produced a good crop one year, but the next year they would prove sterile. It led to farmers using more chemical fertilisers and the soil turned hard while health hazards increased.”

Paneru is also a member of the Mahalaxmi Women’s Savings and Loan Cooperative. In a village that has no banks, it collects small sums of money from its 200-odd members to create a modest fund that can provide loans in times of need.

“As we were running our own cooperative, we felt we could do something more on our own,” says Paneru. “So we asked WWF-Nepal to help us set up a community seed bank.”

In 2010, Paneru and another member of the cooperative, Ambika Poudel, went to visit three community seed banks in the far western districts of Bardiya and Kailali to see how they worked.

Encouraged by the seed bank they saw at Masuria in Kailali district, also run by women, they established the Bhorle Community Seed Bank, the first of its kind in Rasuwa, with Nepali rupees 80,000 (about 1,084 dollars) provided by WWF-Nepal.

Operating from a room in a one-storey building, the seed bank today stocks 68 varieties of seeds, including grains like rice, maize and millets, and vegetables like tomato, green chilli, cauliflower and cabbage. The women’s cooperative runs from the adjacent room.

Members of the bank can take loans of one to two kg of seeds and have to repay twice the amount within six months.

This year, the seed bank put up a stall at an organic biodiversity fair to explain how local seeds meant better insurance against weather swings and how the bank operated.

Unknown to the women of Rasuwa, the government of Nepal has been following their example. The department of agriculture has established community seed banks in three more districts: Sindhuli, Sindhupalchowk and Dadeldhura.

“In 2009-2010, there was a severe maize crop failure in two districts in southern Nepal, Bara and Parsa, that imported about 30 percent of their seeds from India,” says Dilaram Bhandari, chief of the seed quality control centre in the agriculture department.

“The seed banks were started to boost the replacement of quality local seeds as well as preserve biodiversity,” Bhandari explained.

While women comprise more than 50 percent of Nepal’s nearly 29 million population, in many districts their numbers are higher due to outmigration of men in search of jobs. That has led to nearly 40 percent of farming now being done by women, according to Bhandari.

In the seed banks and other cooperatives run by the government, the state policy is to ensure at least 33 percent participation by women.

“We chose Rasuwa because it is much more vulnerable to climate change, being both a mountain community and a poor district,” says Moon Shrestha, senior climate change adaptation officer at WWF- Nepal. “We had to also keep in mind the capacity of the community to adapt to the changes.

“Today, the Bhorle Community Seed Bank is not just a pilot project it is a demonstration site as well.”


Related IPS Articles

 Trekking Trails Lead Nepal Women to Empowerment
 BANGLADESH: Tribal Women Take on Forest Ranger Roles
 NEPAL: Adapting to Climate Change Can be Simple
 INDIA: ‘Seed-Mothers’ Confront Climate Insecurity
 Gender Indicators for Global Climate Funds Still an Afterthought

Related Topics

  World at Work
  Civil Society: the New Superpower
  Women in the News – The Gender Wire
  Earth Alert: Confronting Climate Change
  Nepal: Revolution to Reform
  Developing Countries Coping With Climate Change
  LDCs: Least Developed, Most to Gain


(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for a photograph associated with this article.)

Our future depends on learning more about our home


Our future depends on learning more about our home


Posted 06 September 2011, by David Suzuki, The Tillsonburg News (Sun Media Corporation),



Biologists recently found a strange monkey in the Amazon. They didn’t know this unusual creature with its bright red beard and tail even existed. Researchers also found what they believe to be a massive river running 6,000 kilometres underneath the Amazon River. The underground Hamza River is 200 to 400 kilometres wide, though, whereas the Amazon ranges from one to 100 kilometres wide.

These are just two examples of how much we have yet to learn about our planet. As for the plants and animals that share our home, a recent study – “How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?” – suggests that of the estimated 8.7 million species on Earth, 86 per cent on land and 91 per cent in the oceans have not been described by scientists. And describing just means identifying and naming. It doesn’t mean we know anything about population numbers, geographic distribution, what they eat, how they reproduce, or their relationship with other species.

Authors of the study, published in the scientific journal PLoS Biology, argue that understanding the range of biodiversity in our world is crucial to conservation. In many cases, plants and animals are going extinct before we even know of their existence. “We know we are losing species because of human activity, but we can’t really appreciate the magnitude of species lost until we know what species are there,” study co-author Camilo Mora said.

As well as the titi monkey, other animals recently discovered include a small African antelope, a bacterium that consumes iron-oxide on the sunken Titanic, an underwater mushroom, a jumping cockroach, and a “prehistoric” eel found in a cave in the Pacific Ocean. The eel has so many unusual features, including a second upper jaw, that it has been classified as a new species belonging to a new genus and family.

And, several species that were thought to have been extinct have since been rediscovered. However, researchers say this doesn’t mean they have recovered. Pretty much all of them are still at risk of extinction. In fact, 92 per cent of all amphibians and 86 per cent of all birds and mammals are believed to be facing extinction, and tens of thousands of species are being wiped out every year.

Many factors are at play in this biodiversity crisis, but most are related to human activity. Habitat destruction and conversion of land for agriculture and development are big ones. The spread of invasive species, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, and climate change are also major contributors to what some scientists are calling the sixth great extinction.

Unlike the previous mass extinctions, this one is human-caused. But the history of these extinctions should also tell us something. Nature and the planet are resilient. They bounce back after major crises, but – and this is crucial – not until the cause of the extinction or crisis has dissipated. This means we humans are putting ourselves on a path to extinction. The way out is to recognize that we are a part of the natural world and not something that stands outside of it. We absolutely depend on all that nature provides for our existence.

Bringing about necessary changes won’t be easy. It will require stabilizing and reducing global population, reevaluating our economic systems to reduce the pressures of consumerism, addressing climate change and pollution, protecting large swaths of terrestrial, marine, and freshwater habitat, and learning more about the natural world. Conservation efforts are essential. These will help plants and animals become more resilient to climate change, but they can also help slow climate change. For example, forests absorb and store carbon, so protecting them not only helps the plants and animals that live in them, it also helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Of course, as the species study makes clear, we must address the massive knowledge gaps about our world. Unfortunately, economic pressures, antipathy toward science, and the fact that we often spend more money to learn about other planets than our own mean that we have a long way to go to avoid catastrophe.

We can’t and needn’t give up hope, though. Thanks to the work of scientists and other thinkers, we learn more about our world every day. Above all, we really need to learn how crucial this knowledge is to our future.


Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington.



Kalahari Bushmen Finally Have Access To Drinking Water On Ancestral Land!

Kalahari Bushmen Finally Have Access To Drinking Water On Ancestral Land!


Posted 07 September 2011, by , Intercontinental Cry,



The Kalahari Bushmen are celebrating a major victory in their struggle to return home with their Indigenous rights intact. For the first time in nine years, the Bushmen have access to drinking water!

Bushman girls enjoy water from the well at Mothomelo © Vox United/Survival

The welcomed news stems from a new partnership between Gem Diamonds Botswana and the non-profit organization Vox United. The aim of the partnership, which came about after consultations with the Bushmen is to provide the indigenous residents with access to water at the villages of Mothemelo, Gope, Metsimanong and Molapo.

The partnership itself arrived just three months after another major victory, in January, when Botswana’s Court of Appeal overturned an unfortunate High Court ruling in 2010 that denied the Bushmen’s right to water on their ancestral lands.

As Survival International reported at the time, the Court of Appeal found that:

  • the Bushmen have the right to use their old borehole [the Mothomelo well]
  • the Bushmen have the right to sink new boreholes
  • the government’s conduct towards the Bushmen amounted to ‘degrading treatment’.
  • the government must pay the Bushmen’s costs in bringing the appeal.

A few days after the key ruling was handed down, Botswana decided to approve a massive $3 billion diamond mine near the village of Gope. The approval was reportedly issued on the condition that the diamond deposit’s owner, Gem Diamonds, refused to provide the Bushmen with any access to water.

Whether or not the government issued that condition, Survival International confirms that the Bushmen now have access to at least one fully-operational, solar-powered well.

As it turns out, Vox United re-drilled the very same well that the Appeals Court singled out–the well that the government sealed during their forced relocation of the Bushmen in 2002.

Ever since the relocation took place, the Bushmen have been struggling in court for their right to return home.

The first major step in that struggle came in 2006, when a more reasonable High Court ruled that the relocation was “unlawful” and that the Bushmen have the legal right to live on their ancestral lands. The government promised that it wouldn’t appeal the ruling, however, they have continuously obstructed the Bushmen’s actual return; in part, by making them pay their own way back, by arresting hunters and by banning the Bushmen from using the Mothomelo well.

“The Bushmen have been waiting for water for a very long time,” said Rebecca Spooner, a campaigner for Survival International, “And although Mothomelo is the site of the original borehole, it’s fantastic news they’ve managed to reinstate it here.”

Vox United has already drilled other wells; however, they will require desalination equipment before the Bushmen can use them day to day. “[It’s] going to be very expensive,” said Spooner.

Fortunately, with Gem Diamonds making good on its end of the deal with Vox Uninted, there’s no reason to think that they won’t come through here as well.

Further Reading
Botswana Government Needs to Respect Indigenous People
De Beers withdrawal from Kalahari Reserve
Kgeikani Kweni are still not home
Bushmen arrested for hunting despite court judgement



Rainwater harvesting facilities needed


Rainwater harvesting facilities needed


Posted 05 September 2011, by Marvynn. Benaning, Manilla Bulletin,



MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) will have to establish water harvesting facilities in rainfed areas if it wants to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by 2013.

This conclusion has been reached by experts from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), which is at the forefront of the campaign to optimize rice production in rainfed farms and intensify the production of cereals other than rice in the uplands.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala is sanguine about the prospects of meeting his 2013 deadline to produce enough rice to feed the country’s population, which would have breached 105 million by then.

Rice experts who met in Tagaytay City earlier this year said it is possible to produce an excess of 100,000 metric tons (MT) of rice by 2013 if more farmers shift to certified seeds (CS) and if enough irrigation water flows into more areas heretofore not served by facilities of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and communal irrigation systems operated by Irrigators’ Associations (IAs.)

BAR said in its latest publication on rainfed agriculture that only one million out of the 11 million hectares of prime agricultural lands are served by irrigation systems on a regular basis.

“Easily, 10 million hectares are dependent on direct precipitation to grow crops and livestock,” the bureau stressed.

Experts should not look far to see the advantage of water impounding systems since the Banaue Rice Terraces offers prehistoric evidence that early rice growers knew that terracing would capture precipitation that is needed to irrigate upland rice fields.

Moreover, farmers in the Ilocos Region had long been building water impounding facilities with a little help from tobacco companies that see virtue in helping growers produce rice for their own needs.

Noting that 40 percent of the entire food output in the country comes from rainfed areas, BAR said “while rainfed farming is a high-risk enterprise, the potential for meeting the country’s food security need is high if we will be able to enhance productivity.”

BAR said the fact that rainfed areas are characterized by low productivity and the low use of agricultural inputs, with limited water in the dry months and too much precipitation in the stormy months also having a big impact on yield, should prompt government and farmers themselves to work on creating water impounding systems that could provide water when it is most needed.

“This would require a biophysical redesigning of the landscape of the agro-ecosystem with the aim of harvesting water,” BAR noted.

The bureau suggested the cultivation of agro-forestry trees in strategic zones for flood control and preservation of soil erosion, terracing and, of course, water impoundment systems.

BAR also stressed the need for expanding the watershed zones.

Further, the bureau urged farmers to check on the adaptability of crops and livestock to their environment, arguing that “a long-term objective in the choice of crops must not only be for economic returns but also towards regaining the fertility of the soil and identifying the crops that can be used to assure better water control.”



Slavery: That peculiar institution


Slavery: That peculiar institution


Posted 06 September 2011, by Lisa Van Wyk, Mail & Gaurdian Online,


The recent arrest of anti-slavery protesters in Mauritania has highlighted the fact that, despite slavery in that country officially being abolished in 1981 (pretty late, by most standards), it takes more than a few laws to upset an entrenched and seemingly archaic status quo.

The term “slavery”, that is, the ownership of one person (and their labour) by another, may conjure up images of the American deep south, or even more ancient times. But is Mauritania an anomaly? There are few that could feign ignorance about children who work in sweatshops around the world, and those who are forced to work in dangerous and unsuitable environments, or for meagre wages. But the sheer number of people who are trapped in lives of bondage, people whose lives are controlled by those who profit from their labours, may shock many who thought that that “peculiar institution” (as Southerners euphemistically nicknamed the practice) was an unsavoury relic of the past.

The examples below are just some of the instances where “slavery” can be strictly defined as ownership of one person and their labour by another, against their will. This includes human trafficking. There are obviously many other forms of worker abuse, child labour and exploitation, though even using this strict definition the list of examples is seemingly endless.

Slavery is an everyday part of life in Mauritania, where up to 20% of the population, or 600 000 people, are in bondage, according to estimates by Amnesty International. The practice is a relic of the history of the country, where dark-skinned haratin, or “black Moors”, have traditionally served beidane (“white Moors”). The relationship between these two groups is well-established, with many of the haratin thought to be descendants of African slaves brought into the region by slave traders in the Middle Ages. Trafficking also brings many women and children into the country to work as domestic labourers. Mauritanian slaves, generally, receive no education, and cannot marry or start a family without the permission of their masters, on whom they are totally dependent. The psychological dependence that results has been blamed for the persistence of the practice, with many slaves who were officially “freed” when laws abolishing slavery were introduced still living lives of servitude.

Uzbekistan is the world’s third largest producer of cotton, and the use of child labour is one of the reasons that the product can be exported so cheaply to foreign markets, who seem to turn a blind eye to the practice. Every autumn, the authoritarian state shuts down schools so that children are available to harvest the cotton, and they are sent into the fields. Teachers and headmasters are given quotas that their students must reach. The students — some as young as seven — are told that not reaching their quota will result in punishment and negatively affect their school careers. Those who refuse — or whose parents refuse to allow them to work — are threatened with expulsion. The children receive no compensation for their labour, and are exposed to dangerous pesticides in the process.

Debt labour, where people are forced into slavery to pay off a debt owed to their masters, is one of the most common forms of slavery practiced in the world today. Despite attempts by the Pakistan government to prevent it, there are thought to be between one million and two-million people in debt bondage, most of whom work in the brick industry. Desperate families approach factory and business owners for a loan to make ends meet or pay urgent medical bills, and are made to work in order to pay back the debt. This can be unpaid labour, or, if a meagre living allowance is paid, this is added to the debt, which increases the work hours “owed” to the employer. In many instances the whole family — including young children — is made to work in an attempt to speed up the repayment, and so the children of bonded labourers are prevented from attending school. This in turn leaves them vulnerable to further exploitation.

China’s forced labour camps, the laogai, modelled on the Soviet gulags, have been described by the government as a way to “cleanse” wrongdoers, and make them productive members of society. This is not unique — prison labour is legal and practiced all over the world — but the harshness of the conditions in these camps has raised concerns amongst human rights advocates. Prisoners perform a variety of tasks including mining, farming and factory work, working up to 19 hours a day. Concerns have been raised about who is forced to work in these camps. While “traditional” criminals (those who commit crimes that would be recognised as such by most countries) are housed in jails, those sent to laogai are often political dissidents, drug addicts, prostitutes (some of whom are already victims of trafficking) and others who, for vague reasons, are deemed “undesirable”. Prisoners need not go on trial before being shipped off to the camps, and some human rights groups have raised concerns that these camps are even being used to get homeless people off the streets. Those in the camps are given no access to their families or legal representation. Similar camps are known to exist in North Korea.

South Africa
For the fourth year in a row South Africa has been placed on the Tier 2 Watchlist (only one tier above countries such as Mauritania) by the United States’ state department’s trafficking in persons report, which monitors international trafficking and ranks countries according to their governments’ efforts to combat it. South Africa is seen as a soft target for traffickers, with lax border control and corruption rife in the department of home affairs. Victims come from African countries where they are forced to work in agriculture and industry for no pay, before being reported as illegal immigrants and deported. It is estimated that about 1 000 young Mozambican women are brought into the country each year with the promise of work, but are forced into prostitution or “sold” as wives for migrant workers. There is also a large number of women from Eastern Europe and the Far East who are forced into the local sex industry, or who are temporarily placed in South Africa before being sent to the Middle East. One of failures of the South African government seems to be a lack of documentation. Numbers are rough estimates as many victims of trafficking are deported as illegal immigrants — without ever being documented as victims of trafficking — or find themselves jailed for the illegal activities they have been forced to take part in.


Related Articles



The Potential and Problems of Large-Scale Bioenergy Production

The Potential and Problems of Large-Scale Bioenergy Production


Posted 06 September 2011, by Staff, CO2 Science,


Beringer, T., Lucht, W. and Schaphoff, S. 2011. Bioenergy production potential of global biomass plantations under environmental and agricultural constraints. Global Change Biology Bioenergy 3: 299-312.

What was done
Using a process-based model of the land biosphere to simulate rain-fed and irrigated biomass yields driven by data from different climate models, and combining these simulations with a scenario-based assessment of future land availability for energy crops, the authors estimate “the global bioenergy potential from dedicated biomass plantations in the 21st century under a range of sustainability requirements to safeguard food production, biodiversity and terrestrial carbon storage,” after which they explore the resulting spatial patterns of large-scale ligno-cellulosic energy crop cultivation with respect to their impacts on land and water resources.

What was learned
Beringer et al. report that their calculated bioenergy potentials “are in the lower range of previous assessments,” but they say that all biomass sources may still provide some 15-25% of the world’s future energy demand in 2050, with energy crops accounting for 20-60% of the total potential, depending on land availability and share of irrigated area. But therein lies the problem.

What it means
Noting that “human land use is already the most important driver behind environmental degradation (Foley et al., 2005), biodiversity loss (Butchart et al., 2010) and fresh water consumption (Rodell et al., 2009)” — and that “if energy crops are not restricted to abandoned and surplus agricultural land, the spatial expansion of agricultural activities could affect a large number of natural ecosystems, many of which already are under significant pressure from habitat loss and fragmentation” — the three German researchers conclude that “a possible twofold increase in irrigation water requirements, global cropland increasing by up to 30% for energy crops alone, and additional nitrogen demand that may exceed future fertilizer production,” all illustrate the great challenges of integrating large-scale bioenergy into global sustainable land use. In addition, they report that “a spatial analysis with the ‘Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World’ data set (Olson et al., 2001) reveals that many of the affected regions feature a large diversity of wildlife,” and that “converting these iconic landscapes into large-scale biomass plantations may not be regarded as socially acceptable.”

In light of these several findings, it can readily be understood that the host of intractable problems associated with large-scale bioenergy production will in all likelihood prevent their full potential from ever being realized. Strong competing interests for finite land and water resources simply will not allow it to happen. And humanity thus needs to realize that we can’t ride a hobbled bioenergy horse into the future and expect to prosper.

Butchart, S.H., Walpole, M., Collen, B., van Strien, A., Scharlemann, J.P.W., Almond, R.E.A., Baillie, J.E.M., Bomhard, B., Brown, C., Bruno, J., Carpenter, K.E., Carr, G.M., Chanson, J., Chenery, A.M., Csirke, J., Davidson, N.C., Dentener, F., Foster, M., Galli, A., Galloway, J.N., Piero Genovesi, P., Gregory, R.D., Hockings, M., Kapos, V., Lamarque, J.-F., Leverington, F., Loh, J., McGeoch, M.A., McRae, L., Minasyan, A., Morcillo, M.H., Oldfield, T.E.E., Pauly, D., Quader, S., Revenga, C., Sauer, J.R., Skolnik, B.,Spear, D., Stanwell-Smith, D., Stuart, S.N., Symes, A., Tierney, M., Tyrrell, T.D., Vié, J.-C. and Watson, R. 2010. Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science 328: 1164-1168.

Foley, J.A., DeFries, R.S., Asner, G.P., Barford, C., Bonan, G., Carpenter, S.R., Chapin, F.S., Coe, M.T., Daily, G.C., Gibbs, H.K., Helkowski, J.H., Holloway, T., Howard, E.A., Kucharik, C.J., Monfreda, C., Patz, J.A., Prentice, I.C., Ramankutty, N. and Snyder, P.K. 2005. Global consequences of land use. Science 309: 570-574.

Olson, D.M., Dinerstein, E., Wikramanayake, E.D., Burgess, N., Powell, G., Underwood, E.C., D’Amico, J., Itoua, I., Strand, H., Morrison, J., Louchs, C., Allnutt, T., Ricketts, T.H., Kura, Y., Wettengel, W. and Kassem, K. 2001. Terrestrial ecoregions of the world: a new map of life on earth. BioScience 51: 933-938.

Rodell, M., Velicogna, I. and Famiglietti, J.S. 2009. Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India. Nature 460: 999-1002.

Reviewed 7 September 2011


Iran to save third largest saltwater lake on Earth


Iran to save third largest saltwater lake on Earth

Posted 06 September 2011, by Staff, IBN Live (CNN-IBN ( Global Broadcast News (GBN), Network18, Turner International)),


Tehran, Sep 6 (FNA) The Iranian government has announced plans to save the dying lake of Orumiyeh situated in the northwestern parts of the country.Mohammad Reza Rahimi, the country’s first vice president, said yesterday that Iran’s share of the Aras river could be pumped into the lake in the first six months of the year (starting from March 21 according to Iranian calendar). Lake Orumiyeh, which is the third largest saltwater lake on the planet, has shrunk by half over the past two decades due to drought and dam construction on the rivers that feed it.The Aras river is located in and along the countries of Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.Rahimi said the government is also considering other ways to inject water into the lake.Recently, some local officials in Orumiyeh and Tabriz, capitals of Iran’s West and East Azerbaijan provinces respectively, have expressed concerns about the environmental disaster due to the shrinkage of the lake, and have called on the government to save it to prevent the environmental degradation of the body of water.Located in Northwestern Iran between the provinces of East and West Azerbaijan and near Iran’s border with Turkey, Orumiyeh is the largest lake in the Middle East and the third largest saltwater lake on Earth.A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Ramsar (an international treaty for the protection of wetlands) site said, the lake has shrunk considerably in the past years and could disappear entirely. (TNA)