People, Travel

Protecting Natural Sites

Protecting Natural SitesProtecting Natural Sites

Rural to urban migration has become a major concern in recent decades in many countries. Iran is one.  The development has several reasons, but hunting for jobs and a better quality of life are the main motives. However, with proper management tourism in villages and promotion of natural sites can create jobs, improve living standards and help local communities.

It is obvious that natural tourism like all else demands effective planning and top managers in the implementation phases. It has been seen that these two factors have been lacking in many parts of the country that have rendered many picturesque locations  and charming sites into ruins, Jamejam Online reported on Friday.

Restaurants are among the obvious anomalies when it comes to the travel and holiday industry. There are simply too many restaurants popping up at natural sites and destroying them. It seems there is no proper oversight of or standard procedures in issuing permits to the hoteliers oblivious to the environment and natural preservation.  

The famous Abbasabad Road, that runs through the Hyrcanian Forests and provides access to Kelardasht District of Chalus County in Mazandaran Province, was once a quiet and serene path crisscrossing some of the eye-catching natural beauty in Iran. But as soon as it became an asphalt road and started attracting tourists in larger numbers, tens of makeshift restaurants were set up all along the forest path. Built largely of wooden planks and plastic sheets, the restaurants do not care much about hygiene and the standards necessary for eateries. The garbage collection and disposal at these sites is something very close to disaster.

Such tragic problems can be seen at  other natural sites such as Tangeh-Vashi in Tehran Province; Heyran Road and Asalem-Khalkhal Road in Gilan; Chalus Road, linking the Alborz and Mazandaran provinces, as well as the popular Tehran-Fasham Road.

 Tourist Resorts Not Better

What is surprising is that some tourist resorts are not much better, despite the fact that they are managed by provincial tourism organizations. The natural spring of Deymeh village, Kouhrang County of Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari Province, is a unique tourist attraction registered on the National Heritage List. Tourists visit the fenced site after paying a small fee. The spring is run by a private company without any effective supervision. What one often sees around the spring is several improper camping platforms, restaurants built of sticks and plastics and a fish farm beside the spring.  

The problem is not limited to Deymeh Spring. The Sheikhalikhan village, along Kouhrang River, the large fields of facedown tulips and Choghakhor Wetland are among other sites in the southwestern province crying for much-needed attention.

It is apparent that sustainable development, necessary to lift the livelihood of local communities while protecting nature and natural resources, will not be possible under these circumstances.

Due to their susceptibilities, natural sites must be managed by strong and skilled people with enough clout to take on the law breakers and greedy businesses.

Whimsical decisions and plans lacking vision and foresight have never produced results in the past. Why should it now? Those who disagree with this notion should take a closer look at the plight of Iran’s natural beauty. The National Committee of Ecotourism, whose members include representatives from Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, the Department of Environment and the Office of Natural Resources, has a monumental task ahead.