500 environmental defenders recruited in 2 years

September 5, 2021 - 18:15

TEHRAN – The Department of Environment (DOE) has recruited 500 rangers over the past two years to enhance environmental protection, Mehr reported on Sunday.

It is planned to hire 2,500 rangers for the environment departments in 10 years, Jamshid Mohabbat-Khani, commander of the protection unit of the DOE said.

In the next [Iranian calendar] year (March 2022-March 2023), it is scheduled to attract another 250 rangers, he stated, noting that over the past two years, 500 forces have been added to the environmental protection forces.

“Currently, 3,600 rangers are in charge of defending the protected areas, and the number should reach at least 8,000. There are over 600 [environment protection] stations in the country, 100 of which are inactive due to the lack of manpower.”

The number of rangers in Iran is one-twelfth of the global average. There is one ranger on average per thousand hectares area of lands worldwide, however, the figure is one ranger per 12,000 hectares in Iran, which means that the number of rangers in the country is one-twelfth of the global average, while the rangers protect 11 percent of the country's natural areas, Mohabbat-Khani concluded.

Challenges facing rangers

A long-awaited bill to protect the rights of rangers including rules on carrying and use of firearms was approved by Majlis [Iranian parliament] in June 2020.

The bill was drafted in July 2016 by the Department of Environment following the death of two rangers, Mohammad Dehqani and Parviz Hormozi who were killed in June 2016 during an armed conflict with poachers in Hormozgan province. It has been approved by the judiciary committee of Majlis in September 2019.

As per the proposed bill, the rangers would not face charges in case of involuntary manslaughter while on duty and would be compensated for the losses they suffer while trying to protect the environment and biodiversity, the government is required to allocate budget to help those rangers who might be obliged to pay out blood money or other sorts of money-penalty compensation for murder or any injuries trespassers may suffer in armed conflicts with them, and the rangers will be provided with regular insurance coverage and are entitled to compensation for the losses they suffer while doing their job.

Before, the rangers hold weapons only to survive, but now the environmental defenders are allowed to use weapons. However, 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.

Some 123 rangers have been killed while protecting the environment since 1979 in Iran.

The other challenges the rangers are dealing with are the low wages.

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