People, Environment

Gilan Forests Burn

Gilan Forests Burn
Gilan Forests Burn

Careless campers have once more left their mark Iran’s dwindling forests, dealing yet another blow to the arguments made by the proponents of ecotourism who claim Iranians are environmentally-conscious.

A staggering 31 cases of forest fires were reported between Wednesday and Friday in the ever-green Gilan Province in the north, which consumed more than 30 hectares of forestland, Mehr News Agency reported.

A cooperative effort involving regional environmental forces and NGOs helped extinguish the fires before they could spread and create more havoc.

According to the latest figures released by the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization, more than 6,400 hectares of forests across the country burnt in the first four months of the current Iranian year (March 21 – July 21), and the number may have doubled given the large number of wildfires that have occurred since then.

Experts agree on three main factors that have exacerbated the wildfire problem: carelessness, slow response and lack of modern firefighting equipment.

Earlier this year, the Persian daily Sharq quoted FRWO chief Khodakaram Jalali as saying that 95% of all forest fires are caused by human negligence.

Building campfires in drought-hit forests or improperly extinguishing them are the usual causes of the recurring disaster. Deliberately setting forests on fire has also been known to happen in rare cases with the alleged aim of property development, namely construction of villas for the rich.

At a tourism conference in Tehran last September, Esmael Kahrom, a senior advisor to the head of the Department of Environment, Massoumeh Ebtekar, said “Iranians are culturally obtuse” and cannot look after the environment, rejecting any notion of sustainable tourism in the country.

“We have to reinvent the wheel; have to teach people not to litter, remind them of the need and importance of protecting nature. And it is up to academics and students to instill an environmentally-friendly attitude in the people before we can even talk about ecotourism,” he said.