Project Period

01.01.2020 - 31.12.2022

Funding Institution

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project Management

Prof. Dr. Matthias Schmidt
Robert Gonda, M.Sc.
Sebastian Transiskus, M.Sc.

© University of Augsburg

Human-induced climate change and natural resource exploitation threaten societies and ecosystems worldwide. Lake Urmia, located in north-western Iran and forming the world’s second largest hypersaline lake, has been drying up since the mid-1990s, mainly as a result of excessive water consumption in its catchment area. Consequences of the lake’s desiccation include the degradation of land and freshwater resources, public health and food security concerns, economic decline and unemployment, thus creating an increasingly difficult socio-economic context for 6.5 million people living in the basin’s surroundings. All of these issues make Lake Urmia an ideal case study for research on the interplay between disastrous environmental change, socio-economic consequences and local adaptation strategies.


The research project contains two working packages, with the first project investigating the current reasons for and effects of potentially environmentally-induced migration, and the second project studying transformations of locally practiced water and resource management. Both projects are field-based, with the objectives being approached methodologically by a mix of quantitative household surveys and semi-structured and narrative interviews. The goal of the project „Environmental Change and Migration at Lake Urmia“, conducted by Sebastian Traniskus, is to provide details and help build hypotheses on how and how far environmental degradation induces migration and other adaptation strategies of individuals, households and communities affected by the disaster. Environmental, economic, social and political factors are interrelated and need to be examined jointly, in order to understand the roles environmental factors play in population movements.

Moreover this project seeks to provide concrete evidence on how migration itself can serve as an adaptation strategy and how it can in turn support other forms of adaptation in the area of origin, for instance through translocal networks and remittances.


The goal set by Robert Gonda´s project „Managing Scarcity: Political Ecology of the Hydrosocial Cycle“ is to identify and analyse social, economic, political, institutional and cultural dimensions of water management and the hydro-social cycle from the perspective of local farmers in the basin region. It focuses on how water management is executed in the Lake Urmia region and how it has changed recently in light of massive environmental stress. This project tries to identify points of friction between state regulations, integrated water management solutions and local interests. This contribution will be achieved by analysing empirically locally practiced water management along with socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-