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MPs Criticize Government For Neglecting Alarming Deforestation

Iran -- Zagros oak forests are dying in Iran, Dashte Barm

A local MP from western Iran and nine other members of the Iranian parliament have officially accused President Hassan Rouhani and Islamic Republic officials of neglecting the "tragedy" of deforestation in Western Iran.

Jalal Mahmoudzadeh who represents the western city of Mehabad has also criticized the Environment and Natural Resources Protection Agency for remaining silent on the issue of alarming deforestation in the Zagros mountain range area, the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.

"Immediately after the implementation of 'breathing' project – a project to allow forests to regenerate by not utilizing their resources for some time - in recent months, cutting down the trees in Zagros mountains and exploiting other forests in western Iran has once again sharply escalated," Mahmoudzadeh has lamented, adding, "The logs are mainly smuggled out of Iran feeding paper plants in neighboring countries, lining the pockets of the brokers."

Zagros forests begin in the northwestern province of West Azarbaijan, by the Zagros mountain range (with 1600 km, roughly 1,000 miles length) and extend to southern Fars province. The forests extend to eleven provinces, covering an area of some six million hectares which is 40% of the country’s forest area.

Iranian experts and NGOs have long been warning against rapid deforestation in the area, almost 70% covered by different species of rare old oak trees.

A shocking report was aired by the state-run TV Friday night, April 6, showed the illegal logging activities in Zagros oak forests in Fars Province and selling the od precious timbers at unbelievably low prices.

The report highlighted the lack of manpower for preserving the forest against offenders who were seen cutting trees during the night, attacking the reporter and his crew, and injuring one person.

Wood cutting and smuggling in Zagros ranges appear to be an organized activity. “We first thought that offenders perform individually but later found out that they are professional groups,” said Mehrzad Boustani, the director of Fars province’s natural resources organization.

Meanwhile, almost half of the oak trees in the forest areas of western Ilam and Kohgiluyeh-Boyer-Ahmad provinces are suffering from the charcoal disease which can ultimately destroy the whole forest, said Omid Sajjadian, a board member of ‘Zagros green movement’ environmental group.

Charcoal disease outbreak started some seven years ago and has turned to a major outbreak in the forest, ISNA cited Sajjadian as saying on Saturday, April 5.

As Iranian phytopathologist Ms. Mansoureh Mirabolfathi notes in a scientific paper, the long-lasting drought in the region combined with sand and dust storms has reduced the photosynthesis of the forest trees and making them more vulnerable to the disease, the Tehran Times reported on April 8.

Illegal logging can be regarded as one of the main causes of deforestation in the world and in Iran.

The fine for cutting each oak tree is 4 million rials (roughly $80) while the value of each tree is estimated to be 20 million rials ($400), the report highlights.

Generally, it takes ten years for one-centimeter growth of the oak tree diameter. And some of the trees in this forest are more than 400 years old.