‘Further measures required to preserve forests’

March 6, 2019

TEHRAN – Iran's forest area is approximately 12 million hectares with 0.2 hectares per capita, which is one quarter of the world average, so attention to preserve the forest areas must be four times the global attention, faculty member of the Research Institute of Forests and Rangelands has said.

Mohammad Darvish made the remarks on the occasion of the National Tree Planting Day, in which people are encouraged to plant trees across the country, held on the first day of the National Week of Natural Resources annually observed on March 6 to 13.

Unfortunately, forests have been taken for granted in the country, as 2 million hectares of the northern forests has been depleted since 1330s (1950s), thus no serious protection measures have been taken, he said.

Currently, 1.6 million hectares of the northern forests remain in the country, which was 3.5 million hectares in 1330s, so 2 million hectares of forest areas have undergone deforestation, he further lamented.

According to the reports, large parts of the Hyrcanian forests are endangered, as 4 million boxwood particularly buxus hyrcana, Iran’s endemic plant species not being found in any other parts of the world, have been dried, he noted.

He went on to add that since past two decades, some 15 million oak trees in Zagros forests have been depleted, adding, Arasbaran forest in East Azarbaijan province also has not survived due to construction and mining activities, as well as land grabbing and agricultural development.

The country’s marine forests in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea are suffering as well due to contaminations made by fuel smuggling and releasing gasoline in mangroves (small tree growing in coastal saline or brackish water), which will have vast effects on the marine biodiversity, he also regretted.

In the central regions of the country, overgrazing on rangelands has increased putting 2 million hectares of forest areas at risk of destruction, he said, adding 30 percent of the 6-million-hectare Zagros forests have also disappeared.

Referring to a law banning exploitation of endangered forests in northern part of the country, he noted that the law not being fully enforced due to lack of fund has 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.

He highlighted that trees are one of the most valuable living organisms in the world, without trees we would have faced serious problems in oxygen production, carbon sequestration, biodiversity protection, soil conservation, and accumulation of groundwater aquifers.

“Forests covered 12 million hectares of the country’s surface constituting 0.2 hectares per person, while the world per capita of forest area is 0.8, so in Iran forest land per capita is one quarter of the world average,” he announced.

So, we must take measures toward forest preservation four times the global measures, he highlighted.

“We must quickly attract the public attention to forest protection, and find a solution to enforce the law banning exploitation of endangered forests, otherwise we will face numerous issues,” he concluded.

Yousefali Embrahimpour, commander of the protection unit of natural resources and watershed management department of the province said that 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.

Referring to a lack of forest ranger forces, he noted that 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, while, in other countries, every ranger observes only 3,000 hectares of the forests.

Moreover, an expert in the field of natural resources Reza Sheikhpour said that Hyrcanian Forest in northern Iran has undergone a 15 percent fragmentation due to land use changes for agricultural and residential purposes over recent years, while it already has been suffering from pests and disease.

If deforestation process or illegal construction of roads and dams continue, undoubtedly, Hyrcanian Forest will disappear within the next 70 years, he added.

Unfortunately, the country’s managing policies is not based on knowledge, as construction project must be based on sustainable development, not development regardless of environmental damages, he concluded.

FB/MQ/MG

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