Unhindered ‘Sea Grabbing’ Ravages Coastal Shores

Unhindered ‘Sea Grabbing’ Ravages Coastal ShoresUnhindered ‘Sea Grabbing’ Ravages Coastal Shores

TThe once beautiful northern and southern coastal shores of the country are turning into a sea of jumbled commercial buildings. The construction of hotels, villas and shopping malls is ravaging the area at a rapid rate.

Official studies show that 96 % of the 600 km long coastline of the Caspian Sea in Iran has been invaded by various construction projects. The southern coastline is in no better condition with the coastal and wetlands official at the Department of Environment (DoE) warning that shopping malls will soon replace the natural coastline of the Persian Gulf. Some high ranking provincial officials of Hormozgan Province in the south have referred to the phenomenon of changing the coastal landscape as ‘’sea grabbing.’’    

It seems that the law which enforces a ban on constructions within the 60 meter shoreline limit is no longer recognized. According to a report by Iran newspaper, 338 kilometers of the Caspian Sea shoreline that lies within Mazandaran Province belongs to the public and private sector institutions, 78% of which has already been occupied with constructions. Of these, 20% belong to state organizations, 12% are coastal settlements, 24% is private property, 10% belongs to ‘anonymous institutions’ and only a meager 4% is left for the recreation of the ordinary people.    

 Southern Coast  

There is one major difference in the construction trends in the south and the north.  Whereas the northern coastline is being ravaged by villa constructions, in the south commercial malls and buildings are devouring the pristine beauty.

Ayatollah Gholam Ali Naeeim Abadi, Friday prayer leader of Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan Province is particularly outspoken on the issue. He has repeatedly warned against the destruction especially along the coast of Bandar Abbas – the provincial center.

Qeshm Island is one notable place hit by one of the worst cases of ‘’sea grabbing.’’ Visitors to this beautiful tourist island at the heart of the Persian Gulf are now greeted by concrete buildings instead of sun-kissed beaches that are the natural spawning sites for fishes and shrimps.  

Naeeim Abadi is vociferous in asking the officials to halt the construction spree which is defiling the pristine shorelines of the Persian Gulf. In a recent visit by the head of the DoE to Bandar Abbas, it was announced that the environment body’s priority is on waste management and treatment of wastewater as well as protecting the 60 meter limit for coastline constructions.  

‘’The first drafting of major environmental policies began six months ago which has been confirmed by the Supreme Leader and before the end of the current year (March 20) it will be ratified by the Expediency Council,’’ said DoE head and Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar. ‘’These policies will act as a framework for issues like environmental economics, green economy and environmental cultural awareness in the society.”

Referring to the coastal ravages, she said “Hormozgan Province coastline is critical and its preservation should be ensured and guaranteed in the development policies.” But what was missing in Ebtekar’s comments was the reference to the violation of the mandatory 60 meter limit that is taking place unchecked, let alone the fact that “developers don’t even refrain from draining the shorelines to achieve their construction goals.”

If the coastline continues to be drained in this manner, the shoreline will soon be turned into a dry area. “As a result the farthest shores will also become shallower. These aberrations will result in a totally different landscape,’’ says Ramin Shadi, a former marine environment official.

 State Constructions  

Constructions undertaken by government firms and institutions are also taking a toll on the coastlines.    Government-owned complexes especially abound along the Caspian Sea shoreline. The complexes, which are usually used only 3 to 4 months a year, are being built despite the law enacted long ago banning all such constructions by state organizations.

But coastline construction is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the woes faced by the Caspian Sea shores. The best days seen by the world’s largest inland lake are over. The sea level has dropped 80cm in the last 17 years making more land available for greedy developers to plunder. Now they can even boast they are respecting the 60 meter limit, which is actually based on the 1963 shorelines, and perhaps is obsolete today.