Timber smuggling, major threat to forests in northwestern Iran

February 17, 2019 - 11:11

TEHRAN – Timber smuggling steadily proceeding in the forests in West Azarbaijan province poses a serious threat to the region’s ecology, as 450 tons of wood have been seized being smuggled, commander of the protection unit of natural resources and watershed management department of the province has said.

“Wood smuggling was very limited last year, while in the current year (starting on March 21, 2018) over 450 tons of smuggled log has been seized, which were being smuggled to the northern provinces of the country” Yousefali Embrahimpour regretted.

Referring to a law banning exploitation of endangered forests in northern part of the country, he noted that the law has worsened the situation in western and northwestern forests and led to greater smuggling of logs.

In January 2017 in line with the laws regulating all aspects of policy making and project managements with regard to environmental factors Majlis [Iranian parliament] has prohibited any exploitation of endangered forests by the fourth year of implementing the sixth five-year national development plan.

With 157 MPs voting for the bill, exploitation of forests for commercial and industrial purposes will be brought to a halt by 2020. By that time all exploitation contracts will be expired and none will be renewed. 

All exploitation projects will be banned with the exception of broken branches, fallen or damaged trees which can be only authorized by the Forests, Range, and Watershed Management Organization.

The lack of forest forces, not enforcing laws and low fines are among the other factors exacerbating the condition, Embrahimpour also added, ISNA reported on Saturday.

He further explained that in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Law Enforcement Force, and the judiciary officials of the province, effective measures have been taken in this regard, nevertheless, shortage of rangers and facilities prevents the eradication of log smuggling in the province.

“Currently, a forest ranger is assigned on each 45,000 hectares of the forests in the province, while on average every 18,000 hectares of the country’s forest is being monitored by each ranger,” he lamented.

This is while, in other countries, every ranger observes only 3,000 hectares of the forests, he highlighted.

He went on to say that there are stations controlling truck carrying logs on the rroads in oak forests in the cities of Sardasht, Piranshahr and Naqadeh, in West Azarbaijan province, which significantly minimized timber smuggling in the province.

“Forests in West Azarbaijan province are stretching to over 101,000 hectares in Sardasht and Piranshahr cities, and 6,000 hectares are distributed in different parts of the province,” he concluded.

Earlier in January, Embrahimpour told ISNA that over the past decade generally some 10 tons of smuggled log have been seized, but the number have grown 15-fold this year.

Ja’far Nouri, director of governmental discretionary punishments organization of Mahabad and Piranshahr, West Azarbaijan province, also told IRNA news agency that 17 tons of smuggled logs have been seized in the area and the violators got fined 68 million rials (nearly $1,600).

Head of natural resources and watershed management department of Mahabad, Majid Patou, said that in the current year more than 100 tons of smuggled logs have been seized on Mahabad roads. 

Decreasing custom tariffs on imported wood, easing timber importation, and growing trees for logging are some of the measures that can help in the battle against illegal logging and deforestation.


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