Qeshm Geopark Fate Hangs in Balance

Qeshm Geopark Fate Hangs in Balance
Qeshm Geopark Fate Hangs in Balance

The fate of the Middle East and North Africa’s first and only geopark will be decided during the Seventh International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks on September 27-30 in the seaside resort of Torquay, England, when member states will vote on its reentry into the Global Geoparks Network.

A geopark is a unified area with geological heritage of international significance. It uses this heritage to promote awareness of key issues in the context of planet Earth.

Geoparks have significant scientific and geological value, apart from being a natural and cultural heritage. The GGN has been established by UNESCO to register such parks, protect geoparks, provide education and set standards for green tourism.

To comply with UNESCO’s standards, a geopark must have appropriate infrastructure and adequate accommodation for tourists, in line with environmental standards while protecting the natural landscape.

Initially added to the coveted network in 2006, Qeshm Geopark was dropped from the GGN in 2012 due to the authorities’ failure to address the site’s problems, such as underdeveloped infrastructure and unenforced environmental regulations.

According to Hamidreza Mohsenpour, the geopark’s director, the authorities have been working tirelessly for the past 18 months to address the site’s shortcomings.

“The entire (Qeshm) island and its inhabitants will benefit from the geopark’s global recognition and the advantages that come with being included in the GGN,” he was reported as saying on Saturday by IRNA.

Advantages include collaborations with other geoparks in the network and receiving financial support and knowhow from UNESCO.

In November last year, Iranian officials submitted the geopark’s dossier to the UN body after redefining environmental regulations, restoring a number of sites in the park and improving infrastructure.

Deeming it incomplete, UNESCO sent the dossier back and suggested changes to be made before the organization could review it again. The dossier was resubmitted to UNESCO in February and it was approved in April.

UNESCO evaluators will travel to the Persian Gulf island in the Iranian month of Mordad (July-August) and assess the progress of the geopark’s development before recommending its reentry to the GGN.

  Corrective Measures

In a bid to promote the geopark on Qeshm Island, officials have renamed an important square on the island to “Geopark” and installed boards around the square that publicize information about the geopark, which is home to over 3,000 animal species.

A pavilion has been set up at Qeshm International Airport that introduces the geopark to boost tourism.

“We’ve also installed information boards in various locations in the geopark containing interesting facts and details about the area,” Mohsenpour said.

one of Iran’s seven free zones, Qeshm Island is a top holiday destination and a treasure trove of natural and ecological attractions. Aside from the geopark, sun and sandy beaches, the island’s famed mangrove forests in the Hara Protected Area draw large numbers of domestic and foreign tourists.

Hara Protected Area is one of five forests in Hormozgan Province and arguably the most important feature of Qeshm Geopark. With an area of 85,686 hectares, Hara is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.