People, Environment

Wildfires Burn Ancient Forests

Wildfires Burn Ancient ForestsWildfires Burn Ancient Forests

Some 18,000 hectares of Iran’s forests and grasslands were destroyed by wildfires during the last Iranian year (March 2015-16), according to the head of the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization, Khodakaram Jalali.

The majority of wildfires occurred in the Zagros forests, which comprise the provinces of Ilam, Lorestan, Fars, Kurdestan and Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad provinces.

At the beginning of the year, experts had warned that due to the worsening drought and scorching summer heat, Iran faced a higher risk of forest fires. Despite the warnings, wildfires wreaked havoc on the ancient woodlands, destroying wildlife and threatening the livelihood of communities that depend on forests.

According to the FRWO, 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 manmade wildfires. Deliberately setting forests on fire has also been reported.

“Our approach is to entrust the people and local communities with protection of natural resources, especially forests. It is both efficient and economical,” the official was quoted as saying by ISNA.

Jalali says the authorities must up their game to protect what little remains of Iran’s woodlands, “because we can’t afford to lose our forests.” Less than 10% of Iran is covered in forests, which may not seem much but considering the country’s location in an arid and semi arid region of the planet, it is a blessing.

One of the main reasons why wildfires destroyed such a large areas of woodlands is the lack of equipment at the disposal of local authorities.

“The FRWO doesn’t have helicopters to help fight forest fires. To address the problem, we’ve reached an agreement with the Armed Forces of Iran and the Disaster Management Organization to make use of their air fleet,” Jalali said. The choppers will be stationed in six regions believed to be vulnerable to forest fires, mostly in western regions.