By Shannon Lane @shannonroselane

ONCE the largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, and sixth largest in the world, Lake Urmia in Iran has now shrunk to less than ten percent of its former size 20 years ago

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The lake has reduced in size by over 80% in 20 years

The lake once supported a thriving habitat, attracting migratory birds, reptiles, amphibians and a unique brine shrimp species.

Now due to increased demands for agricultural water from the lake’s basin, the concentration of the salt in the lake has risen to more than 300 g/l, so intense that life struggles to maintain itself here.

The dry marshes are causing 'salt storms' in nearby villages

Italian photographer, Massimo Rumi, visited the lake in November 2016 to investigate these devastating effects.

He said: "We always hear about climate change, but it’s only when we see things like this that we realise the damage we are doing to our world.

The photographer said: The shrinkage has social and environmental consequences."

"Here we are talking about an environmental disaster of huge scale that the world cannot ignore. A lake as big as Luxembourg is vastly disappearing. You can search on Google satellite images of the lake as it was back in the 70’s and how it is now, the pictures speaks for itself.”

The lake was once a popular tourist destination

These salty waters were once the main attraction to Iran's tourists, believing that bathing in the lake had therapeutic properties.

However the heavy salt on the marshes is now causing problems to local people and the environment surrounding the lake.

Many boats are abandoned on the lake's marshes

Massimo said: "The shrinkage has social and environmental consequences. There are 'salt storms’ which can travel for many miles reducing vegetation growth and causing respiratory illnesses and eye problems.

The lake is a very real image of the effects of climate change

"People living in villages around the lake will be forced to leave their homeland and move to other parts of Iran."

Unfortunately these desiccated wasteland are from man-made activities such as climate change, dam construction and pumping groundwater from the area.

Massimo said: "I have the feeling that it has been damaged beyond repair."

The photographer said: "There is this long bridge that crosses the lake and connects the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan. The bridge was completed in November 2008 despite warnings from environmentalists that the construction would contribute to the drying of the lake.

"These are man-made natural disasters and if we do not change our excessive consumeristic behaviour we will see more and more of this."