By Faranak Bakhtiari

Department of Environment’s protection unit has made notable achievements: commander

June 30, 2020 - 19:8

TEHRAN – Jamshid Mohabbat Khani, commander of the protection unit of the Department of Environment (DOE), elaborated on achievements of the protection unit and the environmental defenders in a press conference held on Tuesday.

Amendment of gun laws for environmentalists, taking measures for constantly training of forces, providing rangers with high-tech facilities, an annual 300-percent rise in illegal weapons seizure, and the fact that no rangers have died in conflicts over the past 20 months were some of the most notable achievements.

The DOE was initially the Hunting Club of Iran, established in 1956. Later, it developed into an organization overseeing hunting and fishing activities in the country. In 1971 the organization changed its name to its current one.

To preserve the existing biodiversity over the wide geographic expanse of Iran, four types of areas have been designated for preservation and protection, including, national parks, wildlife refuges, protected areas, and natural national monuments. In 1997, the DOE held supervision over 7,563,983 hectares of such areas. By the year 2003, the size of the DOE supervised areas reached 11,791,788.225 hectares.

No rangers died in conflicts in 20 months

Over the past three years, successful measures have been taken in the field of training the forces along with constant supervision, so that in the last 20 months, not only no rangers have been killed in conflicts, but none of them have sentenced to death.

Some 4 rangers convicted of killing poachers have been sentenced to death, 2 of whom have been forgiven, he noted.

Over 90% of wildfire set unintentionally

Mohabbat Khani pointing out that wildfires are mostly caused by unintentional human error, said that over 90 percent of wildfires are ignited by humans unintentionally while setting fires in nature, smoking, and releasing plastic and glass containers.

Some 10 percent of the wildfires are anthropogenic that most of the arsonists are arrested, he highlighted.

Rangers to be equipped with high-tech facilities

Mohabbat Khani went on to say that installing cameras on rangers’ uniform is another plan that can be effective in documenting while helping the defenders to prove conflicts with poachers to the judiciary, he highlighted.

He explained about the establishment of a wireless system, saying that the new wireless devices have a GPS that can be used to track and monitor the forces in the event of an accident, and the rangers can contact all the country's police stations.

The system will be launched this year so that all 644 wildlife protection stations will be connected online, he noted.

Stating that the DOE is also trying to promote protection in the maritime areas, he noted that “to do this, we will soon launch air monitoring system over the maritime areas and wetlands in the country.”

Fishermen's boats are generally faster than the maritime rangers’ boats, which is why we have a problem preventing crime, and we have prioritized equipping the boats, he emphasized.

Last year, a number of cars were provided to the stations, but since rangers are often chasing the poachers, the vehicles must be replaced, which is on the agenda, he also said.

We have so far trained 1,800 rangers through online courses, he said.

Lack of rangers to be compensated to some extent

Criticizing the lack of workforce for environmental protection, he said that the number of rangers in Iran is one-tenth of the global standard, which is a ranger for every 12,000 hectares, while it should be a ranger per 1,000 hectares.

We are falling short of some 5,000 rangers, as 8,500 rangers are needed to protect the country’s natural resources and environment, however, there are 3,200 rangers working in the country, he explained.

Last year, some 250 rangers were employed to meet a part of the need, and we plan to increase the number of employment, he stated.

He went on to state that 50 marine rangers will soon be recruited and trained, then they will be active in 7 provinces.

Referring to the recent fires haunted the southern and southwestern protected areas of the country, he stated that blowers have proven effective both for preventative fire control and for extinguishing fires so that 50 blowers were provided to the rangers in the past two days.

And another 150 will be delivered to the ranger stations over the next two weeks, he noted.

Cyber police cooperation made social media unsafe for environmental criminals

Cyber police have been cooperating with the DOE to monitor and deal with environmental crimes in cyberspace along with combating animal abuse, he noted.

He also said that over the past three months, we have followed up on 100 cases of environmental violations in cyberspace, and so far 50 of which have been filed and violators have been arrested.

Violators should be warned that we are monitoring cyberspace for environmental crimes and making cyberspace unsafe for them, he emphasized.

Illegal weapons seizure increased by 300% compared to last year

This year, detection of illegal fishing has increased by 751 percent, detection of illegal bird hunting by 201 percent, and mammal hunting by 41 percent, he said, noting that this shows that protection and control measures are promoted.

Also, dealing with poachers before the crime has increased by 70 percent and dealing with the illegal trade of wildlife has increased by 108 percent, he added.

He went on to emphasize that illegal weapon seizure was one of the main obsessions so that it increased by 300 percent compared to the last year.

1,654 hectares of protected areas affected by bushfire this year

Pointing to the damage caused by recent fires, he said that “during the first three months of this year, 56 wildfires occurred in protected areas and burnt some 1,654 hectares.

Meanwhile, during the same period, 82 fires occurred in 620 hectares of protected areas, indicating that the number of fires has decreased but the area involved in the fire has almost tripled, he lamented.

Amendment of gun laws for environmentalists

Referring to the amendment of the laws on the use of weapons for the rangers in armed conflicts, he said “Before, the rangers hold weapons only to survive, but now the environmental defenders are allowed to use weapons.”

He stressed that the use of weapons is the last resort and only when the lives of defenders are in danger and it must be proven that there has been no other way to save the life of the ranger.

If two rangers encounter offenders and one does not have a weapon and his life is in danger, the other ranger who has a weapon can defend his colleague, he concluded.

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