People, Environment

Cooperatives May Execute Economic Plans in Forests

Cooperatives May Execute Economic Plans in ForestsCooperatives May Execute Economic Plans in Forests

The Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization has proposed a bill to the government that would allow it to delegate the execution of "economic plans" in forests to local cooperatives.

Speaking to ISNA, Mostafa Abdollahpour, a legal advisor to the organization, said the bill aims to combat the destructive use of forest resources by allowing local communities to launch economically viable and environmentally friendly projects in woodlands.

"Not everything people do is harmful but due to outdated regulations, certain lines are crossed, which we aim to rectify with this bill by allowing constructive schemes to replace potentially destructive projects," he said.

Expounding on the benefits of the bill for local populations, Abdollahpour said the move would give priority to local cooperatives to establish businesses that would otherwise be set up by other government bodies.

"For instance, right now if a region of a forest can be used to set up a mineral water plant, the Energy Ministry's subsidiaries will have to help launch it. However, if the bill is signed into law by the Majlis, priority will be given to local cooperatives to start the business," he said.

Abdollahpour hoped that the bill will finally unite the organization and local communities, which for years have been at odds over the latter's exploitation of forest resources.

"We'll be fighting on the same side, which is to protect and restore forests, not to mention development of rural communities," he added.

Forest protection has been one of President Hassan Rouhani's key policies, with his administration submitting a bill to the parliament soon after coming to power in 2013, which prohibited any commercial exploitation and production of hardwood from northern woodlands for 10 years to allow them time for rehabilitation.

The bill has not even been reviewed by lawmakers, however, due to the staunch opposition of groups with business interests that argue the bill is one-dimensional and addresses only one of the many dangers threatening the country’s woodlands.

According to FRWO chief, Khodakaram Jalali, the government has taken measures to supply the bulk of Iran’s wood demand from timber farms and imports.

"Barely 10% of Iran’s timber demand are supplied by domestic forests, which is the lowest level it has ever been," he said.

About 76% of wood needs are met by tree farms that have helped take the pressure off forests. A tree farm is a privately owned tract of land where trees are grown for commercial use. There are 220,000 hectares of tree farms in Iran.

Recent reports say there are plans to increase the volume of timber imports from Russia and Ukraine from 1 million cubic meters to 10 million cubic meters a year by 2021.

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