People, Environment

Desertification Challenging Iran, Wiping Forests

Desertification Challenging Iran, Wiping Forests
Desertification Challenging Iran, Wiping Forests

Iran’s ongoing struggle with desertification is continuing, although “special attention” has been given to the matter in the country’s sixth five-year economic development plan (2016-21).

The phenomenon is a multi-factorial problem exacerbated by other reasons, such as the water crisis that Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian described as “the greatest threat to Iranian civilization”.

Experts say desertification threatens over 100,000 hectares of forests in the country and attribute it to severe water shortage, declining precipitation and climate change. Forests have already been besieged by timber smugglers.

“The problem is getting worse, but the economic development plan outlines measures to address the problem,” Majid Abbaspour, director of the Iranian Society of Environmentalists, told ILNA

“Climate change and gross mismanagement of water resources have contributed greatly to the current crisis.”

To alleviate the crisis, experts have called for a ban on growing and exporting water-intensive crops that require a lot of water to grow for little to no profit.

Water experts have long called for overhauling inefficient farming practices, but to no avail.

Abbaspour said farmers are reluctant to change their outdated, wasteful irrigation practices.

In Iran, from around 10 million hectares of arable land, 1.3 million hectares are equipped with pressurized irrigation systems. Close to 55% of this area use drip irrigation that improves water productivity by 95%, while 45% of this figure belong to rain-fed farming that also enhances productivity by 70%.

In recent years, the government has made efforts to encourage the use of modern irrigation systems by allocating facilities aiming at promoting the implementation of pressurized irrigation systems in farmlands.

“However, farmers will not replace their old ways unless constant monitoring is conducted,” says Hamid Janbaz, an advisor to the agriculture minister.

In addition, careless consumption in Tehran and many other big cities, low rainfall and prolonged drought, combined with a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in average temperature and recent dust storms sweeping across western Iran, are exacerbating the situation.

“Unless the issue is effectively addressed, desertification will have serious social, political, economic and health impacts,” Abbaspour declared.