By Jubin Katiraie
According to the Statistics Center of Iran, the area of Iran’s forests in 1900 was about 19 million hectares, but this figure decreased to 14.4 million hectares by 2012, and in 2015 Iran’s forest areas shrunk to 10.7 million hectares and were destroyed by 43%.
Tasnim: “Every day, 40,000 hectares of northern forests are destroyed quantitatively.”
The head of the Iranian Forestry Association says we predict that you may not see any forests in the north of the country in the next 30 years.
The Supreme Court of the Government of Iran, by approving the endowment document of 5,600 hectares of forest habitats in Mazandaran, voted to provide these lands to the person holding the endowment.
Iran’s news agencies reported that after several trials based on the Natural Resources and Watershed Management Complaints Office of Mazandaran, finally in the last stage, the Supreme Court ruled to the capture of the best forests near the city of Sari, the decision to endow these forests according to the document given by just a person.
The move prompted some news agencies and news sites calling it forest-seeking and the use of legal conflicts to seize national lands.
Mohsen Mousavi, Director General of Natural Resources and Watershed Management of Mazandaran, stated that the land in question is one of the best forests in the province in the village of Aqmashad; “The endowment trustee has requested to receive the area and cut down the trees, but in our opinion, their endowment is flawed and we expect it to be re-examined.”
He added that the endowment document is four centuries old.
Reza Aflatouni, director-general of the legal office of the Forest Affairs Organization, in an interview, called the move “land grabbing with a completely legal appearance” and said that such a vote is issued when a person or organization who want to seize state and national lands has legal support or seizes national lands by abusing flaws and conflicts in the law.
The transfer of thousands of hectares of forests in northern Iran to individuals while the forest cover of Iran is severely damaged due to natural and human damage such as drought, deforestation, change of use, and fire and needs severe protection. The destruction of vegetation in the natural areas of Iran has caused various environmental crises, including the occurrence of floods and sandstorms.
IRNA wrote in this regard: “In reviewing the case in the Single Article Commission and the Court of First Instance and even the Court of Appeal the vote was in favor of the province’s natural resources and watershed management, and then the trustee of the endowment presented his objection to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the case was sent to the same leveled court by the Supreme Court, where a verdict was given to the detriment of natural resources, and this verdict was also approved by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.”
Mousavi stated: “The vote was issued in favor of the trustee of the endowment, while according to the law approved by the Parliament in 1986, the endowment of national and government lands was prohibited from this date onwards and the transfer of endowment lands to the trustee was a subject of land restoration.”
According to him, in this disputed area, about 600 hectares of reserves of boxwood, oak, and other rare trees have been established by the organization of the natural resources, and other species, including pine, have been planted by the natural resources, which shows that the custodian has no action in rehabilitation and forest lands belong to natural resources.
The Director-General of Natural Resources of Mazandaran added: “The custodian claims to have an endowment document of about 500 years, while the northern forests date back to about 50 million years ago, and antiquity alone cannot be a reason for ownership.”
The environmental crisis in Iran has long attracted the attention of the international community. US officials have repeatedly warned against mismanagement of Iran’s natural resources, extensive deforestation, and unnecessary and unplanned dam construction. These mismanagements are the major cause of various environmental crises, including floods, and unprecedented droughts.