People, Environment

Off-Road Racing: An Environmental Threat

Off-Road Racing: An Environmental ThreatOff-Road Racing: An Environmental Threat

While several off-road competitions are held under environmental slogans, ecologists believe that the practice poses a serious threat to nature.

Off-road racing, which has gained popularity in Iran over the past several years, especially for boosting tourism, has been the subject of widespread criticism by environmentalists, despite the organizers' adoption of eco-friendly mottos.

The latest off-road race in Iran, which took place on Saturday in Kerman Province, was held under the slogan of protecting the endangered Iranian cheetah. Critics maintain that this is to cover up the damage they cause to the environment and animals.

In an interview with ILNA, Esmaeil Kahrom, an ecologist and advisor to the Department of Environment chief, Massoumeh Ebtekar, said the frequent passage of vehicles across a track causes the earth to be beaten and blocks the burrows built by animals.

Off-road racers often drive in deserts where temperatures reach scorching levels and animals such as lizards and sand cats seek shelters under the earth.

"As the burrows created by these animals are crushed, they either run or die," he said.

Based on a study in Switzerland, animals gradually learn that the road is a dangerous spot and keep away from it. The knowledge is passed down to their offspring as well. But off-road driving is particularly dangerous because it surprises wildlife.

"They do not expect to come across a vehicle in that location, so they often get crushed under the wheels of these cars," said Kahrom. The activity poses a threat to vegetation as well. Bushes, which provide shade, fruit or even an ambush spot for predators, are destroyed by the racing vehicles.

Research projects have revealed that around 8,000 animals depend on a single Bush Milkvetch for living.

"You can't drive gigantic trucks in the desert and try to cover it up by using environmental slogans. There are certain rules that must be followed to ensure no harm comes to ecosystems," he said.

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