Using the Strategic Environmental Assessment for Compilation Polices of Sustainable Development Plan in Lake Urmia

Document Type : Research Paper


1 M.Sc. Graduate, environmental Planning and Management Department, Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Environmental Planning and Management Department, Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

3 Assistance Professor, Environmental Planning and Management Department, Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran


Average per-capita renewable water of Iran is decreasing strongly. In near future water wars in the Middle East are predictable. Exploitation of land resource has the most significant impact on wetlands. Wetlands degradation is the serious warning to unsustainable development. Despite that the Lake Urmia is recorded in conservation lists as Iranian national parks, Ramsar sites and UNESCO biosphere reserves, over the past decade, change detection in this land indicates the regression of water level. Geology studies such as sediment, pale limnology and hydro geochemistry have shown the role of climate in drying of Urmia Lake with serious uncertainty. Testimonies indicate that Urmia Lake during the Holocene wasn’t dry except in shoreline. Unsustainable future for environmental and socio-economic dimensions of this land is predictable. Thus, investigation about the ways of utilization water resources in basic needs (especially water and soil) in Urmia watershed seems necessary. In macroscopic and coarse scales, sustainable development policy making needs Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) approach. Integrated management plan for watershed of Lake Urmia is single plan in Urmia basin scale. This plan doesn’t have necessary strategies for resource management and has a lot of ambiguities and faults. Moreover, resource management of this land didn’t have requisite strategies. This study will identify causal chains of land degradation with driving force-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) model. Then, policies are collected in order to protect natural resources, the area, and the profits of local residual and future generations with SEA approach. SEA studies have just begun in Iran, so this study has much educational and investigative value.
Materials & Methods
Urmia Lake is located at the end of closed endorheic basin of Urmia in North West Iranian plateau. This basin has nine watersheds. Two watersheds are situated on ecological zone. This study is based on description and systematic analysis by using quantitative and qualitative data in SEA framework and policy making category. Screening and scoping stages are noted to understand state of environment and completion of socio-economic baseline studies. Screening stage is noted to initial environmental evaluation by using DPSIR model. This model defines the association between environmental processes and environmental impact with human activities.
In scoping stage, important scales, variable ecological components, and variable social components have been distinguished. Type of these variable components is descriptive indicator. Then, preconditions of participation have been mentioned. In this stage, long-term strategic goals (responding to driving forces in basin scale) with vision outlining (1415) and middle-term strategic goals (responding to pressure in watershed scale and responding to state of ecological zone) with vision outlining (1405) has been determined in order to specify sustainable development planning in this land. In evaluation stage, priority of watersheds has been determined for related policies according to variable components. Appropriate strategies for decision making and monitoring process have been proposed. Finally, optimum mixture of policies has been suggested for sustainable development of this land.
Discussion of Results
The role of human activities in degradation of this land (Urmia basin) is indisputable. Land degradation driving forces are as follows:
1. The rapid growth of urban population, 2. Lack of appropriate planning to meet population needs, 3. Major and nonproductive employment in agricultural sector, 4. Low literacy and old age in farmers with lands reformation and consequently patches fragmentation and decreasing production efficiency, 5. focus on water supply approach and dam making in water resource management, 6. Government incumbency and facilitating in distribution of agricultural inputs, particularly watersector such as hidden subsidies of government for water supply by lack of proper water pricing, 7. lack of participation of agricultural land use integrated management due to participation preconditions in Iran (government reliance on oil revenue), thus decision making for using land resource is merely government-owned.
The most important pressure of human activity is also as follows:
1. Construction of road through the middle of the lake and consequently water flow disorder. 2. Irregular dam making and consequently silent rivers. 3. Land cover changes and land use conversions. 4. Changes in cultivation pattern and consequently consuming more water. 5. Serious irrigation deficiency. 6. Drilling numerous wells and exploitation of underground water beyond the limit of the water tables. 7. Non principal faulty salt exploitation and consequently dust aggravation.





These pressures lead to dominant positive feedbacks, climatic disturbances and weather quality decadence, quality and quantity of water resource and decreasing and degradation of natural habitats. Finally, this land degradation will lead to increase in unemployment, immigration, social insecurity and protestation and diseases.
This study by using SEA in Urmia watershed, has compiled sustainable development policies. The main advantage of this study is incorporation of the results of SEA and DPSIR. Completion of the method used and the result can be a guide for upstream document compilation for sustainable development planning and programming in this study area. Also this is a proper model for compilation of upstream documents of management in other ecosystems and wetland areas. Final outcomes of this study are optimum integration of strategies and policies for responding to state, pressures and drivers.


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