Dam Project Inflicts Irreparable Damage

Dam Project Inflicts Irreparable Damage
Dam Project Inflicts Irreparable Damage

The controversial Shafaroud Dam project has inflicted irreparable damage to the ecologically-rich Caspian Hyrcanian forests in Gilan Province.

Khodakaram Jalali, head of the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization, told ILNA that Chinese contractors have been working on the project ever since it was approved by the ministries of energy and agriculture, as well as the Department of Environment, during the tenure of the former government.

“We have repeatedly voiced concern over the wellbeing of the forest,” he said, adding that long, arduous discussions between the DOE, FRWO and the Energy Ministry helped reduce the forest area to be cleared (for the dam) from 350 hectares to 93 hectares.

 Citing the Islamic Republic of Iran Constitution, Jalali said, “Any project that irreversibly damages the environment and/or natural resources cannot and should not be approved.”

However, a clause in the Constitution allows the execution of environmentally-harmful projects that help supply drinking water for the region, he added.

DOE officials believe the FRWO could have done more to halt the project or at least reduce the area to be cleared, but instead they approved it.

Hamid Jalalvandi, director of the Environmental Assessment Office at the DOE, told ILNA last month that the DOE had suggested the dam be used to only supply drinking water, which would have resulted in the clearance of no more than 50 hectares of forestland.

“However, other entities, including the FRWO, Management and Planning Organization and the Energy Ministry, opted for the dam to be used for industrial and agricultural purposes as well,” he said.

Former Gilan DOE chief, Amir Abdoos, said their reasoning “just doesn’t make sense.”

“They should be building a dam of this magnitude in a region where the need for water is paramount, especially downstream,” he said, adding that rice farms downstream are all thriving.

Despite staunch opposition from environmental groups and authorities, the project was approved by the Rouhani administration as well, when First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri approved the dam’s construction last month.

The ministry and the Gilan Regional Water Authority argue that construction of the dam is necessary to address severe water shortage in the region.

On the other hand, opponents of the project insist Gilan’s high annual rainfall overrides the need for a dam.

With 1,200 millimeters per annum—4.5 times above national and 1.2 times above global average—Gilan boasts the highest annual precipitation in Iran.

On UNESCO’s Tentative List of Heritage Sites since 2007, the Caspian Hyrcanian forests are of utmost social, biological and economic importance, and host a number of protected sites. They cover five provinces, stretching east to west along the southern border of the Caspian Sea, covering the provinces of North Khorasan, Golestan, Mazandaran, Gilan and Ardebil.