Deforestation Blamed for Natural Calamities

Deforestation Blamed for Natural CalamitiesDeforestation Blamed for Natural Calamities

Severe flooding in Iran’s western regions, namely Ilam and Lorestan, have devastated livelihoods and incurred billions of dollars in damages. The pain and misery from this and other natural calamities could have been avoided, however, according to an environmental expert.

“Years of deforestation in the Zagros Forests [which cover substantial portions of Ilam and Lorestan] led to this disaster,” Mohsen Tizhoush, director of the Zagros Environmental Engineers Association, told Azad News Agency.

For a variety of reasons, from dam and road construction to oil and gas pipelines, “we tore down the ancient oak forests with total disregard for its repercussions,” he said referring to the shocking pattern of lawlessness that has been wiping out entire forests in Iran at terrific speed with the relevant authorities unable or unwilling to check the wholesale destruction.    

Tizhoush said land subsidence in the region caused by accelerated deforestation in the past decade and exacerbated by excessive withdrawal of groundwater sources have created the “perfect” environment for flash floods.

“This was an accident waiting to happen,” he said.

Countless studies have been conducted on the fallouts of deforestation in the region, and officials were warned of the potential damages of logging trees, to no avail.

“If watershed management had been given the attention it deserves, we could have curbed the damages,” Tizhoush said.

A watershed is the area of land that catches rain and snow and drains or seeps into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater. Proper watershed management takes into account the topography and climate of the region.

 A Bit Too Late

Pointing to the loss of life and 2-trillion-rial ($60  billion) damage bill of last week’s flooding, Tizhoush said the severe inundations “destroyed villages and obliterated roads and farmlands” in Lorestan, noting that the social cost of the catastrophe must not be ignored.

The expert lamented the destruction of natural flood prevention systems, such as watersheds and forests, as a result of extended mismanagement and urbanization, and said “there is little time” to now devise artificial means of prevention.

“But it has to be done, and not just in specific regions, but across the country,” Tizhoush said.

“We need to act swiftly to implement preventive measures and restore watersheds, because they will help reduce the recurrence of similar floods by 70%.”

Torrential rains on Wednesday night triggered unprecedented flooding that affected Lorestan, Ilam, Kurdestan, Hamedan, Kermanshah and Khuzestan provinces in the western parts of Iran country. Eight people were killed, including two in Kermanshah and three each in Lorestan and Ilam.

Flash floods in Ilam caused an estimated $60 million in damages and significantly affected environmentally-important areas, including the site where the Department of Environment has been trying to restore the Persian fallow deer population.