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Satellite images derived from Google Earth Engine by Financial Tribune compared the state of forest cover around the cement factory between 1985 and 2016.
Satellite images derived from Google Earth Engine by Financial Tribune compared the state of forest cover around the cement factory between 1985 and 2016.

Caspian Forests Destroyed by Cement Factory

In January, the parliament approved a law banning logging in the Caspian Hyrcanian forests for 10 years

Caspian Forests Destroyed by Cement Factory

The Caspian Hyrcanian forests that hug the southern shores of the Caspian Sea in northern Iran are considered “ecological treasures” by both officials and activists due to the region’s unrivaled biodiversity.
In fact, Iran is hoping to nominate the forests for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018, which would make it the country’s third natural heritage site on the list.
UNESCO inscribed Lut Desert on the World Heritage List during their 40th session in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016. Arasbaran Protected Zone in East Azarbaijan Province is Iran’s second natural heritage site to be nominated and is up for UNESCO registration in 2017.
However, the activities of a growing cement factory near Neka, Mazandaran Province, could dash any hopes of the site’s listing as a result of large-scale deforestation it has caused since the 1980s.
According to the news website Tabnak, Mazandaran Cement Company’s rapid growth since its inception in 1974 has taken a massive toll on the region’s fragile biodiversity. The company began production in 1981 and its quick expansion culminated in the company becoming Iran’s third largest exporter of cement in 2012.
This expansion, however, has come at a cost to Iran’s rapidly depleting forestlands. The online report posted satellite images of the current state of woodlands around the cement factory, showing a visible clearing surrounded by dense forests.
To confirm, Financial Tribune used Google Earth Engine’s Timelapse function to compare satellite images from 1985 and 2016. The images tell a sad story: the forest area around the factory has been cleared at a terrifyingly fast pace in just over three decades.
Using area measurements tools specific to Google Maps at Mapdevelopers.com, the Tribune calculated the cleared area to be 1.6 million square meters, or 160 hectares. That’s the size of 224 football pitches.
The deforestation has multiple reasons, ranging from explosions at mines—to acquire raw materials—to road construction for trucks. 
Unsurprisingly, those at the cement company don’t seem bothered. The website quoted an individual identified only as Hashemzadeh, a PR staff at the company, as saying, “There’s nothing out of the ordinary … From time to time, we get complaints that bring environment officials here for an assessment, but they never find anything unusual.”
Most likely he meant forest officials, as the woodlands come under the jurisdiction of the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization and not the Department of Environment.
Hashemzadeh also said the level of deforestation depicted in satellite images “is the result of mining activity … It’s natural.”
Of course, calling manmade deforestation “natural” is an oxymoron.
In January, the parliament approved a law banning logging in the Caspian Hyrcanian forests for 10 years to help the woodlands recover from years of onslaught by timber companies. One can only hope the law applies to the cement factory as well. The government has also been instructed not to renew logging licenses.
The new law may help put an end to the cement factory’s destruction of its surrounding vegetation, which has also forced animals out of their habitat.

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