People, Environment

New Fear of Anzali Wetland

New Fear of Anzali WetlandNew Fear of Anzali Wetland

Efforts to stop and reverse the destruction of the Anzali Wetland have failed so far, according to a senior official at the Department of Environment, turning the ecologically-rich wetland into a flood risk for the key northern port city of Anzali.

“Measures such as dredging and raising public awareness have only marginally slowed down the wetland’s destruction,” said Masoud Baqerzadeh Karimi, deputy for wetlands affairs at the DOE, ISNA reported.

In April 2014, Mohammadreza Borji, director of the DOE in Gilan Province, said ten rivers that feed the wetland bring with them 250,000 cubic meters of sediment every year, which have reduced the depth of the lagoon to one meter, down from nine meters 40 years ago.

Furthermore, it has become the dumping ground for urban and industrial waste.

“Reduction of the wetland’s depth hampers its ability to hold water, so in case of heavy rainfall, the lagoon will be unable to perform its natural function and Anzali will face a major environmental disaster,” Karimi warned.

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

Wetlands function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and flood waters.

“Our counter measures have failed to keep pace with the rate of the wetland’s destruction,” Karimi admitted.  

He said recently it was decided to put the Gilan Governorate in charge of the restoration efforts, and urged local communities and provincial officials to take the threat to the wetland, and by extension the province, seriously.

In addition to the aforementioned problems, Anzali Wetland is threatened by two invasive plant species, water hyacinth and water ferns native to the tropical regions.

Located in the evergreen Gilan Province, Anzali Wetland is an internationally-recognized lagoon in northwestern Iran.

A combination of natural factors and human activities has resulted in the wetland losing more than three-quarter of its size since the 1930s.