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Iran arrests several after protests around dry lake

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Tehran (AFP) – Iranian police have arrested several people for security breaches after they protested the drying up of a lake once considered the largest in the Middle East, state media said on Sunday.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, Lake Urmia in the mountains of northwestern Iran began to shrink in 1995 due to prolonged drought and water extraction. for agriculture and dams.

Urmia, one of the largest “hypersaline” – or super-saline – lakes in the world, is located between the cities of Tabriz and Urmia, with more than six million people depending on agriculture around its shores.

On Sunday, Rahim Jahanbakhsh, the police chief of Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, reported the arrests.

He described the suspects as “many evil and hostile elements, who had no other objective than to destroy public property and disturb the security of the people”, according to the state news agency IRNA.

On Saturday, the Fars news agency reported that “dozens of people in the cities of Naghadeh and Urmia had protested against the authorities’ lack of attention to the drying up of Lake Urmia”.

Fars said protesters shouted slogans in the provincial capital of Urmia warning the lake was shrinking.

“Lake Urmia is dying, parliament orders its assassination,” some shouted, Fars reported, with others shouting that “Lake Urmia is thirsty.”

Iran, largely arid, like other neighboring countries, has suffered for years from periods of drought and chronic heat waves, which are expected to worsen with the effects of climate change.

In recent months, thousands of people have demonstrated against the drying up of rivers, particularly in central and southwestern Iran.

Lake Urmia is an important ecosystem, a key stopping point for migratory birds and home to endemic shrimp as well as other underwater species.