Qeshm Geopark could lose UNESCO tag

May 29, 2020 - 21:59

TEHRAN – Iran’s southern Qeshm Geopark could lose its UNESCO status due to years of large-scale shrimp hatchery operations that could be referred to as an example of environmental mismanagement in the country.

In January, Alireza Amiri-Kazemi, the deputy director of Qeshm Trade and Industrial Free Zone, said that extensive shrimp hatchery operations could cause the Qeshm Island Global Geopark to lose its UNESCO status.

“According to officials at Iran Fisheries Organization, two [aquatic farming] companies have received business licenses to operate on the Qeshm Island Global Geopark,” Amiri-Kazemi said, Kayhan Life reported.

“Qeshm Trade and Industrial Free Zone has, however, issued no business operating licenses. Permits issued by other organizations are not valid. It is also illegal to set up such operations on the Qeshm Island Global Geopark, particularly near the Salt Cave, which is a protected natural reserve.”

“The Qeshm Trade and Industrial Free Zone used several legal channels to warn the companies before the start of the project a few months ago,” he explained. “They have, however, resumed construction, despite verbal and written warnings from the Judiciary. The project involves digging the ground, removing soil, and setting up shrimp hatcheries, which will deface the protected natural reserve.”

Initially added to the coveted network in 2006, Qeshm Geopark was dropped from the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) in 2013 due to the authorities’ failure to address the site’s problems, such as underdeveloped infrastructure and unenforced environmental regulations.

After years of back and forth and discussions with UNESCO experts, Iranian authorities submitted the geopark's dossier for review last year and it received the provisional approval during the Seventh International Conference on UNESCO’s Global Geoparks Network in Torquay, England. 

In 2017, the geopark managed to reclaim its global status, after 10 days of deliberation by UNESCO's Executive Board in Paris. Seven other geological sites were also added to the list, according to a press release on GGN's website.

UNESCO announced that the Qeshm Geopark will be a UNESCO site until 2020 when its members will be reviewed.

Describing Qeshm as "an island shaped like a dolphin in the Strait of Hormuz, off the southern coast of Iran", the press release on GGN's website points to the island's geological formations that have been shaped by erosion that created "a range of spectacular landscapes and beautiful rock deserts".

One of Iran’s seven free zones, Qeshm Island is a top holiday destination and a treasure trove of natural and ecological attractions in the Persian Gulf. The island is a heaven for eco-tourists as it embraces wide-ranging attractions such as the Hara marine forests and about 60 villages dotted mostly across its rocky coastlines.

Aside from the geopark, sun and sandy beaches, the island’s famed mangrove forests in the Hara Protected Area attract a large number of domestic and foreign tourists. Hara Protected Area is one of the five forests in Hormozgan Province and arguably the most important feature of Qeshm Geopark. With an area of 85,686 hectares, Hara is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The ecological importance of the forests has compelled local officials to build a new museum dedicated to showcasing the woodland’s ecological features.

AFM/MG

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