Majlis Rejects Crucial Environment Bill

Majlis Rejects Crucial Environment Bill
Majlis Rejects Crucial Environment Bill

The crucial Environmental Assessment Bill failed to secure the necessary votes in the Parliament’s open session on Tuesday, dealing yet another blow to the Department of Environment and its chief Massoumeh Ebtekar, who has bemoaned the outcome of the vote.

Out of the 195 legislators attending the session in the 290-seat chamber, 89 voted in favor of the bill while 69 opposed it. Furthermore, 30 lawmakers did not vote while seven “abstained” from voting.

Lawmakers have the option to vote ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘abstain’, or not vote at all.

According to Mehr News Agency, prior to voting on the bill, there were heated exchanges among lawmakers, with some trading insults.

Urging legislators to review the bill favorably given the worsening environmental problems, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani asked lawmakers to pass the bill even if they did not agree with certain details, promising them that the finer points of the bill would be ratified later.

But the speaker’s plea fell on deaf ears and the bill failed to pass in the Majlis. A number of lawmakers, who accuse the DOE chief of not doing enough to address Iran’s environmental woes, were among those voting the bill down.

Currently, environmental assessment of construction projects is only covered in the country’s five-year economic development plans.

The DOE-sponsored bill aims to remedy the problem by making environmental evaluation a law and its enforcement mandatory, which would incentivize developers to comply with environmental regulations since failure to do so would be deemed a crime.

  Pandering to Constituents

The consensus among DOE officials and environmentalists is that the bill was rejected because lawmakers feared that the passing of the bill would have led to the shutdown of numerous construction projects in their respective constituencies.

“There are 50 construction projects in progress in Iran that have not been evaluated yet,” said Mohammad Mojabi, deputy for legal and parliamentary affairs at the DOE, according to ISNA.

The bill aims to make environmental assessment before a project begins, while it is in progress, and after it is complete, a law. “We’re not seeking to shut construction projects down; we only want to protect the environment.”

The official said that the department will continue to monitor all potentially harmful projects and enforce environmental regulations and stressed that the DOE will resume efforts to pass the bill in the new Parliament that convenes in late May.

During the February 26 Majlis elections, candidates allied with President Hassan Rouhani —many of whom secured seats in the incoming Parliament — campaigned on a platform of tackling environmental problems and pledged to support the DOE and NGOs in their efforts to protect the environment.

Speaking to Mehr News Agency, Ebtekar, who doubles as a vice president, said environmental assessment “is a pillar of sustainable development, as seen all over the world.”

Sitting legislators have drawn the ire of environmental activists for having done little to alleviate environmental problems; case in point being the vital Clean Air Act, which has been pending in the Majlis for over a year — a bill environmentalists say can and will help significantly reduce pollution and improve air quality.

According to statistics from the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization, air pollution kills a whopping 80,000 people in Iran every year.