People, Environment

Miankaleh to Become Bird-Watching Hub

Miankaleh to Become Bird-Watching HubMiankaleh to Become Bird-Watching Hub

Tourism and environment officials are working on a plan to turn Miankaleh Wetland in Mazandaran Province into a hub for bird-watching.

Speaking to ISNA, Delavar Bozorgnia, the head of the provincial office of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, said the plan is "being worked on" in cooperation with the Department of Environment to "ensure no harm comes to the protected area".

The most controversial part of the plan is the construction of a parking lot at the entrance of the peninsula, which would fall outside the protected zone.

"Tourists will be transported to the wetland by special vehicles," he said, without elaborating what he meant by "special vehicles".

Over 170 NGOs and numerous experts have long been opposed to plans to open the peninsula up to tourists. They argue that because the region is devoid of tourism value, infrastructure must be developed which, experts believe, will harm the region's fragile ecosystem. Bozorgnia said bird-watching tours will be organized starting this winter.

"Tour guides have been trained and must ensure no damage is inflicted on the region by their groups," he said.

One of the 613 international biosphere reserves, the wetland has been battling desiccation for years due to the Caspian Sea recession, climate change and Iran’s protracted battle with water scarcity. Environment officials say it will be "completely restored by 2021” when it achieves ecological balance.

Miankaleh is a narrow and long peninsula situated in the extreme southeastern part of the Caspian Sea. It is spread over 68,800 hectares. The wetland is a wildlife sanctuary and hosts a number of endangered species, particularly aquatic migratory birds who prefer the site for laying eggs.

Miankaleh Peninsula was registered in 1969 as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. In 1979, the peninsula was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

The biosphere reserve's ecological importance is highlighted by its hosting of 250,000 migratory birds, including pelican, flamingo, graylag and white-fronted geese, swan, red-breasted merganser and the white-headed duck, in winters.

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