Recent political turmoil in the Islamic Republic of Iran, is only part of the problems facing this country of more than 70 million. The country’s fragile eco-cycle is also at risk, much of this due to developmental aspects which have been occurring in many parts of county, while environmental issues have taken a back seat.
A good example of this is the 4,000 sq. kilometer Kavir National Park, located in north-central Iran. Established years ago in 1964 as a protected area, the semi-arid reserve was declared a national park by Shah Reza Pahlavi.
The park is home to a number of rare and now endangered animal species, including Persian leopards and Asiatic cheetahs.
Plans to drill of oil and natural gas in the park would cause severe damge and danger of the park and its wildlife, according to officials of Iranian environmental and nature protection organizations, including the Iranian Society of Nature: ISNA.
The fear is that besides the normal hazards caused by oil and gas drilling, including slush pools and run-off of raw petroleum and other bio-hazardous liquids, the drilling would also force large quantities of salt water to the surface, causing irreparable damage to the terrain and resulting in the deaths of many animals that might drink the poisonous waters.
A former head of the state environmental authority for the Teheran Province, Hasan Pirasteh, said that Kavir Park’s environment has already been “degraded” by the conducting of military exercises by the army as well as by allowing hunters with special permits to hunt wild game in the park.
He commented on this by saying: “if this habitat is destroyed, it’s like destroying a house on top of it’s inhabitants. When we commit ourselves to the world to name an area a protected area, it means the area is entrusted to nature alone.”
Another area facing environmental damage is in the southern Fars Province, where the construction of a large dam would endanger a number of archeological sites as well as grazing sites for both wild and domestic animals.
And along the Caspian Sea coast, two petrochemical projects and a planned oil refinery could destroy more than 120 hectares of forest, according to Hossein Akhani, a botanist and academic from Tehran University.
He said that these projects, if allowed to continue, would cause health hazards to local residents and would also result in the drying up of a swampy estuary that would “turn the area into a dust bowl.” He compared this situation with that of the Aral Sea, between the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which has almost completely dried up due to disregard for the local environment.
Judging from these examples, the Iranian people have a lot to be concerned with these days, besides who is in charge of running the country’s political affairs.
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