People, Travel

Committee to Review Ashouradeh Tourism Scheme

Committee to Review Ashouradeh Tourism SchemeCommittee to Review Ashouradeh Tourism Scheme

The National Ecotourism Committee is to review a controversial plan to turn Ashouradeh Island in the Caspian Sea into a tourist resort after its general outline was approved by the Department of Environment.

The DOE approved the framework of the scheme in May, with the finer details set to be reviewed in the following months.

According to Reza Morovati, a deputy at Golestan Governorate, the plan is on its way to the ecotourism committee for a final approval.

“We had a meeting with (DOE chief) Massoumeh Ebtekar last week and urged her to speed up the process,” he told Mehr News Agency.

Environmental experts and DOE officials will visit the island in the coming weeks to assess the area in which the project will be implemented. According to Golestan’s officials, the scheme only covers 10% of the island.

Proponents of the scheme say it will help create jobs and boost the local economy, while critics argue that the influx of tourists will have adverse consequences on the region’s wildlife.

More than 170 NGOs and prominent experts have voiced opposition to any plan calling for opening Ashouradeh to tourism.

Esmaeil Kahrom, a senior advisor of DOE and a staunch opponent of the scheme, said last year that the project will have irreversible environmental impacts.

“If the Swiss failed to protect their wildlife sanctuaries-turned-tourist attractions, what chance do we have?” Kahrom asked as a matter of fact.

Located off the easternmost end of Miyankaleh Peninsula to the northeast of Gorgan Bay, Ashouradeh is the only Iranian island in the Caspian Sea.

Miyankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay were registered in 1969 as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

In 1979, the peninsula, including Ashouradeh, was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.