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Iran’s Zagros forests destroyed by fires, government indifference

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, June 18, 2020—From mid to late May, forest fires began in Iran’s Zagros Mountains, western Iran, across at least seven provinces, burning thousands of acres of trees and destroying wildlife.

The protected Khaeez forests, in southwest Iran and one of the most important areas affected, consists mainly of oak trees.

Volunteers rushed to battle the fires while the regime refused to allocate any assets for this urgent matter.

 

 

 

“The forests are burning. There is no official here. Dear people, hurry up and help us. Bring water. Here the volunteers [who came to put out the fire] do not even have water to drink,” a volunteer said in a video message asking for help.

Another volunteer who was a member of Behbahan’s mountain-hiking team said, “We entered the area with the volunteers... The fire was very large and expanded. We put out the fire of the hillside until 11 pm. Then we went to the mountain with our mountain-hiker friends and started to extinguish it with the leaves of trees and branches, but because the fire was severe in the area, we need a helicopter to take more people up there and extinguish the fires.”

“The leaf blower [for putting out fire] is just $205, and the governorate can easily provide 10 blowers. We have been asking them for a year. Why don't they do so?” he added.

Hundreds of Oak trees destroyed in Zagros forests wildfire

Hundreds of Oak trees destroyed in Zagros forests' wildfire

 

Burnt Zagros forest

Burnt Zagros forest

 

Helicopters and planes were desperately needed since these fires were targeting mountainous regions. However, the mullahs’ regime has yet to allocate any such means for the Forests Organization.

The armed forces, including the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), refused to cooperate due to flight costs.

Ali Abbas-nezhad, a protection unit commander in the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization, said no measures were taken by the Planning & Budget Organization despite a budget of 300 billion rials ($1.7 million) being approved last year to purchase fire-fighting equipment.

 

 

On June 8, the state-run Ebtekar daily wrote helicopters in the Khaeez area only transferred two 8-man groups to the mountainous area and left the area due to fuel shortages. “We have no leaf blower or fire swatters to confront the fires,” Mohammad Dasmeh one member of an environmentalist committee told Ebtekar.

“In 2016, arrangements were made to launch 17 bases in various areas for emergency air units to assist the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization and the Environment Organization in conducting flights. However, the necessary budgets have not been fully provided for,” said Ismaeel Najjar, head of the National Emergency Management Organization, according to a report wired on June 6 by the state-run Dana news agency.

Hollow promises and corruption in the regime’s apparatus have become so common that even state TV is complaining.

 

It is crystal clear that Iran’s environment and natural resources are only important for the regime as long as they can be plundered.

For example: San Diego spent $34 million to purchase a firefighting helicopter and a hanger for this and two other choppers.

 

In January 2020, Iran’s parliament allocated 200 million euros to the IRGC Quds Force. This money could have been used to purchase at least five modern firefighting choppers and thousands of wildfire detecting systems to protect Iran’s forests.

“We could have prevented these forest fires with just 300 billion rials ($1.7 million),” former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezaii, now secretary of the regime’s Expediency Council, wrote in his Instagram account.

“The entire Environment Organization budget is 7.5 trillion rials (around $42.1 million), of which 7.2 trillion rials ($40.45 million) is used to provide paychecks and pensions,” said Issa Kalantari, head of the regime’s so-called Environment Protection Organization, according to the Tasnim news agency.

Issa Kalantari, head of the regime’s so-called Environment Protection Organization

Issa Kalantari, head of the regime’s so-called Environment Protection Organization

 

 

Another Tasnim report on June 1 indicates: “A former MP called on the Environment Protection Organization chief to reform his viewpoints about the environment. ‘Unfortunately, we were denied even a single vehicle for the natural resources branch. How are we to put out fires without a vehicle?... Unfortunately, only the people are concerned about the environment. There is no such concern among our senior management and government officials,’ he said.”

Zagros’ forests make up 40 percent of Iran’s forests and provide for 50 percent of Iran’s drinking water. In the past few decades, one-sixth of these forests have been destroyed due to various reasons. In the past 13 years, 16,000 hectares of Iran’s natural resources have been lost to fires.

Khaeez forest in fire

Khaeez forest in fire