People, Environment

Ebtekar Condemns Environment Politicization

Ebtekar Condemns Environment PoliticizationEbtekar Condemns Environment Politicization

Iran’s top environmental official has condemned the “politicization of the environment” by a select few in the wake of a recent protest outside her office at the Department of Environment in Tehran.

“Environmental conservation transcends petty politics,” Massoumeh Ebtekar was quoted as saying by the media on Friday.

“Some people are trying to take (undue) advantage of the recent protest, which was attended by less than 5% of the Tehran Province’s DOE employees.”

She lambasted the “sensationalist media” but noted that every government employee “has a right to voice dismay,” ISNA reported.

Recalling President Hassan Rouhani’s statement earlier this year that labeled his administration “the government of environment”, Ebtekar said the Cabinet “has always listened to complaints and supported their swift resolution.”

Last week, a group of DOE employees gathered outside the department’s main office in northwest Tehran to protest work conditions and low salaries, among other things, local media reported.

The incident received wide media coverage—especially from the state-owned radio and TV organization — and drew a harsh backlash from conservative MPs, who had a few choice words for the embattled DOE chief.

“We’re going to probe into the department’s affairs,” said Habib Aqajeri, a conservative lawmaker from Mahshahr, Khuzestan Province, Fars News Agency reported.

“Most MPs from Khuzestan are disappointed with the DOE, and people have a right to know what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Aqajeri accused Ebtekar, who is a vice president, of using her power to “push her political agenda”, sentiments echoed by Hossein Nejabat, another conservative MP from Tehran and a member of the Majlis Energy Commission.

Neither of the parliament members elaborated further.

  Selective Media Coverage

Ebtekar accused the opposition media of failing to thoroughly report the government’s successful projects, “but they’re ready to pounce on every opportunity to assail the administration.”

She said most people are still “reeling from the previous two administrations” and stressed that the Rouhani administration has been striving to address environmental issues since coming to power in 2013.

The government and DOE have come under growing pressure in recent months from NGOs and prominent environmentalists to take effective action to protect and preserve the wetlands and check environmental degradation.

The administration in general and the embattled DoE in particular have often pledged to tackle the issue with added resolve and determination.

Supporters of DOE cite the department’s low annual budget of $52 million and visible lack of clout as the main obstacle preventing progress in addressing grave environmental issues.

“With such small funding, how are we expected to pay employees what they deserve?” Esmael Kahrom, a senior adviser to Ebtekar, said earlier this year.

“DOE employees receive some of the lowest salaries among government workers. I urge the Parliament take this into consideration when it passes next year’s budget.”