Filed under: Iran

Obama against McCain, ISIS and Climate Change


Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, response to host Bob Schieffer’s question on “Face The Nation” regarding what Obama could do after the fall of Romadi and Palmyra to ISIS has been widely covered in the media. He believes that, at the moment, either there is no strategy to deal with ISIS or the current one is misguided and badly manipulated:
We need to have a strategy. There is no strategy. And anybody that says that there is, I would like to hear what it is, because it certainly isn`t apparent now, and right now we are seeing these horrible — reports are now in Palmyra they`re executing people and leaving their bodies in the streets.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States is saying that the biggest enemy we have is climate change.
Sen. McCain refers to President Obama’s environmental concerns which he addressed in his speech on 20th May at the United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement:
Here at the Academy, climate change — understanding the science and the consequences — is part of the curriculum, and rightly so, because it will affect everything that you do in your careers. Some of you have already served in Alaska and aboard icebreakers, and you know the effects. As America’s Maritime Guardian, you’ve pledged to remain always ready — Semper Paratus — ready for all threats. And climate change is one of those most severe threats.
And this is not just a problem for countries on the coasts, or for certain regions of the world. Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake; it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now.
After all, isn’t that the true hallmark of leadership? When you’re on deck, standing your watch, you stay vigilant. You plan for every contingency. And if you see storm clouds gathering, or dangerous shoals ahead, you don’t sit back and do nothing. You take action — to protect your ship, to keep your crew safe. Anything less is negligence. It is a dereliction of duty. And so, too, with climate change. Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.
Sen. McCain’s vendetta against President Obama is nothing new and he has commented on the issue of ISIS several times since last year. His comment in August, 2014 is an example of which;
The president has to understand that America must lead and, when American hasn’t, a lot of bad things happen.

Another thing which is not new is the demagogic repositioning of GOP against the Democrat President as we go closer to the new Presidential election and McCain has proven to be no exception. Not only has his remark on the issue of environment come as a shock to environmentalists and people who are concerned around the world, but it also indicates how GOP war lords take advantage of the misinformation of the public no matter the price.
It is worth noting that on the same day as Sen. McCain’s response to Bob Schieffer, when ISIS, one of the consequences of President Bush’s war against terror, slathered tens of innocent residents of Palmira, we heard from some southern provinces of India that the number of the casualties of the unprecedented heat wave has crossed the boundary of 430; In the US, flood displaced many of the residents of the southern states and damaged the infrastructures at the cost of billions of dollars. If we have a look at the press, we will see hundreds of similar disasters such as drought, haze and air-pollution taking place on our wounded planet every day.
It is not my intention, however, to pin point the destructing effects of the climate change phenomenon as it is, I believe, crystal clear who or what can be considered as our and our planet’s most threatening enemy. We only need to recall hurricane Sandy which cost the economy of the States 10 billion dollars daily or that Japan cannot yet recover from what Fukushima nuclear reactors did to its economy. It was an unmeasurably horrific incident which is still threatening the mental and physical well-being of the citizens of the country.
Inside Iran, McCain’s response will become more tangibly painful when we come across the authorities using the McCain “weapon”, criticizing and humiliating the concerns and accomplishments of environmental activists and environment lovers. It was not long ago when one of the MPs, with a humiliating tone, accused Ebtekar of being more concerned with “cats” rather than the residents of Khoozestan. There, in another event, were officials who responded to the concern of some responsible and humane residents of Fars regarding the unbelievably cruel ways the dogs are treated in Shiraz with disrespectful and grotesque words.
In many similar cases, we have observed the authorities, MPs and the political and economic elite’s unconcerned or sometimes aggressive and violent reactions to some precious resistance of a minority who have understood the dire consequences of being indifferent towards the destruction of the eco-system. Take Ashoradeh as an example, a group of influential investors are planning to build resorts on the island while certain apathetic MPs are stating that there is nothing on this island except for some pomegranate trees and jackals and therefore, it is not worth the ink to write with.
We should not forget while the deniers of climate change are drumming support for development, economy and war on terror, “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict” as Defense Secretary of the US Chuck Hagel put in a statement. Thus, we can easily conclude climate change in a not very long run will lead to wars and more. Pete Newelle, a former US army colonel and a consultant says “I saw it a few years ago, watching tribes along the Iraq-Iran border going to war over water rights. And it’s becoming worse as populations migrate to urban coastal centers and those areas’ ability to provide services are overwhelmed. As a precursor to conflict, lack of access to basic human needs is a major driver and it’s only getting worse.”

I would like to draw Sen. McCain and his acquiescent politicians and executives to James Hansen’s, a professor at Columbia University, recent remark about the environment;
……the current imbalance of 0.6 watts/square meter (which does not include the energy already used to cause the current warming of 0.8°C) was equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day, 365 days per year.
This goes to say that the danger the climate change poses is 400,000 times deadlier and more destructive than the bomb the Americans dropped on Hiroshima.
Therefore, if Mr. McCain and his comrades are truly compassionate toward the poor and disadvantaged people of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, etc. stating that they are victims of a lack of strategy, they should do their utmost to crack down on the cruel, doom and evil phenomena of climate change, deforestation, desertification and water and land subsidence in Mesopotamia, Africa and the west of the subcontinent of India. They should drum on bio-democracy in which all residents of the planet are given an equal chance of living, shouldn’t they?

Leave a Comment June 2, 2015

An analysis to Iran President’s speech at the Climate Summit in the UN headquarters in New York

h. ruhani


In the first day of school season in (2014 ) the president of Islamic republic of Iran was expected to attend in a big governmental school in capital’s middle level neighborhood to hold a fairly symbolic old custom and start school season hammering the school bell to announce new school year, but he preferred to authorize this duty to his first secretary and he, himself , participated in a summit about global warming crisis gathering with heads of state and leaders in west of Atlantic .The following article tries to present a purposed analysis of remarks of Iranian president ( Dr. Rouhani ) climate change summit in New York.
With invitation of UN In 23th September 2014, while most of world leaders gathered in New York to negotiate about their governmental approaches to safeguard the dangers of extending global warming and world climate change ,a world leader from developing country talk about a new point of view that even developed countries and governments which are pioneers in environmental considerations couldn’t ignore him; This is a big occurrence which if continues as a righteous approach in a strategic planning of his government, it could be a historical center for Iran environmental followers undoubtedly.
“The formation of the UN as an international peace strengthening organization has untrue incompatibility with its current identity” President Rouhani tried to prove in his remarks .He reminded that the silence of the world organization against applying bulky sanctions in front of its members, openly jeopardized and scratched the organization true spirit, because these sanctions extend the poverty and these extensions will have the result of exacerbate damage on natural resources and biome ,The process that is obviously increases the procedure of lands’ demolition and will decrease the capabilities of biome and ecosystems and therefore with soaring of environmental unbalances ,there will be more fields for social tensions, violence , immigrations and provide a slack local and beyond local structures.
In the other hand, president Rouhani warned that following the increasing wave of economic sanctions against Iran will destroy and raze the target of UN formation, in the heart of UN in presence of the highest authorities of UN.

Mean while president Rouhani emphasized that” illegal economic sanctions should not pose of danger to people’s health and environment” .In addition, according to his previous suggestion about “ world without violence “ which was confirmed in UN general assembly , “The rise in the temperature and its negative impact on rain precipitation in the Middle East, the chronic drought and water scarcity has led to an increase in poverty and the occurrence of instability and tensions in the border areas”, said President Rouhani.
“Unfortunately, the continuation of political disputes and war in the neighboring countries has become an obstacle in achieving a durable and practical agreement on the resolution of regional environment problems”, he said.

“If we truly believe global warming is a global problem, we should then accept that addressing it also requires genuine global cooperation. “He stated.”The Iranian president warned that any obstacle to international cooperation for dealing with environmental challenges would be detrimental to international community, and he stressed “Nowadays it has become difficult for some countries to gain access to the experience and knowhow of other countries in the fields of combating drought and water scarcity as well as environmental crises, especially urban pollution.”
He stressed the importance of cooperation among regional countries to solve the environmental problems particularly the global warming crisis.
In the continue of his historical remarks, he also expressed the Islamic republic’s of readiness to make constructive contribution to sustainable developing nations with his emphasis to low carbon economy ,he also added that “The Islamic Republic of Iran welcomes the opportunity to promote cooperation with relevant public and private sectors at the national, regional and international levels, in order to strengthen its national measures in combating climate change, and is determined to facilitate such partnership and cooperation through, inter-alia, establishing joint ventures between Iranian and foreign companies.”

Finally President Rouhani advised leaders to create economical motivation to coordinate with world cooperation in global warming field and added’’ national target with approaches to Decreasing energy intensity, Reducing energy subsidies, Limiting major atmospheric pollutants, Promoting energy efficiency, improving the quality of fuels, despite imposed economic sanctions , we try to increase renewal energy sources and cooperate with our neighbors about dust control and management technology as well.
We hope to publish and extend these kinds of reasonable remarks in world communities to have more worthy analysis for Iran’s new doctrine and we hope to add the effectiveness of environmental rules in Iran political literature. It won’t be achieved, but we found some objective signs of sovereignty consideration to eligible governance in the reengineering layout scene of national development.

It is an achievement that if happens we can see the increase of annual budget of Iran environmental organization from %0.14to at least %0.5 of national credit.
On that case we may know the presence of president Rouhani in New York as a real new approach and a historical event for Iran environmental fans. This is presence that its feedback propagates out of Iran borders and undoubtedly creates a considerable wave of environmental attention among Middle East southwest Asia and NAM members.

Leave a Comment November 23, 2014

An unforgettable lesson from Hengam’s donkies

This is a true story

Its name is Hengam .A beautiful island with exceptional coral bank that is less than 10 km long and 5 km wide and totally it has some 2,500 Iranians residents. A small land which at least lasts to200 years in the shape of island among – Blue – saphier -like waters of the Persian Gulf. However, I want to talk about the fascinating events that occurred in Hengam and impressed my sole.
Last month,I had opportunity to attend a workshop for local communities around salty and sweet lagoon and Minab to visit Hormozgan ( A province in East of Iran ). During the journey, I met a man called Hossein Aghakhani Zanjani, an environmental activist and diving expert who has tried to help the area tourism boom and keep Hengam’s natural attractions safe from tourists irresponsible harmful behavior since many years ago. Therefore he tries to plan and restore coral, clean up Hengam rescue injured animals and birds in their area besides his original business. The story that I want to tell in this article is about one of the observations and incredible experiences of Hossein Aghakhani Zanjani
The story comes back to early 2012, when Hussein was crossing a beach road called “ Ghir “ by his blue Nissan van which is- one of the few cars in the island- suddenly he faced with a donkey sitting in the middle of the road and he was blocked the way! As It turns out ,he needs to say something… after getting out of the car , he found out that donkey’s foot is sore and swollen and a piece of metal substance was inside his foot which was an opened can that apparently was thrown away by tourists .Of course Hussein tried a lot to catch the donkey but the injured donkey escaped limpingly (Note that these donkies that was used for transport purposes was abandoned without care so that they live semi-wildly).
This scene was forgotten until a few days later somebody informed Hussein that the injured donkey is in school yard. He immediately attend to the school, and as you can see in the following pictures with the help of his colleagues, they caught the donkey and put out the remaining pieces of can from his leg and they wounded his decayed leg and release him to nature.
About a month later when Hussein was working in his office… suddenly he heard some noises outside his office which belongs to the mentioned donkey and his friends! All of donkies were injured by metal pieces and had infection and pain in their legs and now they were came into the human who proved that he is a real friend and they can feel safe by him.

Leave a Comment November 17, 2014

Voice of Iran hostage crisis tapped as VP, environmental advocate


Masoumeh Ebtekar was still a teenager in 1979 when she began appearing before the world’s cameras to convey messages from the Iranian revolutionaries who had taken 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The young woman then dubbed “Mary” by the Western media has been appointed vice president in charge of environmental affairs under newly inaugurated President Hassan Rouhani. (Vahid Salemi / Associated Press)
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By Ramin Mostaghim and Carol J. Williams
September 10, 2013, 11:37 a.m.
TEHRAN — She was known to Western media as “Mary” when she appeared before the world’s cameras to speak for the Iranian Islamic revolutionaries who seized 52 Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Masoumeh Ebtekar served as spokeswoman for the hostage-takers during the 444-day standoff, chosen for the English fluency she acquired growing up in the United States. But she was also a believer 30-some years ago, she has conceded in recent interviews, in the cause of punishing Washington for its role in a 1953 coup that brought to power the hated shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Ebtekar, now 52 and mellowed, like many faces from that fevered heyday of the revolution, was named by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday to serve as a vice president and head of environmental affairs.

Ebtekar became the first female vice president of Iran in 1997, when she was appointed to the office by reformist President Mohammad Khatami, with whom she served throughout his eight years as political leader.

Her appointment by Rouhani underscored the newly inaugurated president’s efforts to strike a more moderate and collaborative posture toward the West after eight years of intensifying isolation brought on by his combative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

An announcement of Ebtekar’s appointment carried by the official Fars News Agency said she holds a doctorate in immunology and has been an associate professor in an array of scientific and medical disciplines at Tehran’s Tarbiat Modares University.

As a member of the Tehran City Council for the last six years, she led efforts to tackle air-pollution problems in the capital and to protect marine life in the Persian Gulf, the English-language Tehran Times added.

Ebtekar served on the city council under conservative Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, with whom she clashed frequently, according to Iranian media reports. Kayhan Persian, a mouthpiece of the hardliners who are gradually being pushed to the sidelines as Rouhani assembles his team, prepared a critical commentary on Ebtekar’s reemergence in the leadership for its Wednesday editions.

Mohammad Darvish, an environmentalist and columnist for reform-backing publications, said Ebtekar was proposed for the post following an online vote among more than 1,000 ecologists and environmentalists asked who would best serve as the nation’s top environmental advocate.

“It is a good sign to show that President Rouhani is keeping his campaign promise to respect the opinion of experts and professional associations and unions,” said Darvish, praising Ebtekar as well connected and experienced.

Ebtekar is the second woman Rouhani has appointed to a senior administration post, following the selection of Elham Aminzadeh as vice president for legal affairs last month.

The appointments suggest Rouhani is seeking to bolster his campaign trail promises to improve relations with the outside world. The president last week announced that he was taking control of suspended negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programs from the religious hierarchy and putting his reformist foreign minister in charge.

On Monday, Rouhani urged his new Cabinet members to open personal pages on Facebook to be more accessible to the populace — an about-face from the Tehran regime’s previous efforts to limit Iranians’ access to social media.


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Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Williams from Los Angeles.


Leave a Comment September 15, 2013

Iran Faces Environmental Crisis

By: Barbara Slavin for Al-Monitor Posted on August 16

Motorists travel on a highway in Tehran as the city is covered in dust

TEHRAN, Iran — As temperatures soared above 105 degrees Fahrenheit during one of the hottest summers here in recent memory, no snow was visible atop the mountains ringing Tehran and no water flowed down the narrow channels along main streets (known as jubes in Farsi) that a year ago were still full of fresh mountain runoff. A furry brown haze obscured the skyline, irritating eyes and tickling throats.

About This Article

Summary :

Global warming and a deteriorating environment are a large if not larger threat than sanctions to the well-being of Iran’s 75 million people.

Author: Barbara Slavin
Posted on: August 16 2013

Categories : Originals  Iran  

While most press attention has focused on the inauguration of a new Iranian president, the nuclear crisis and the impact of Western economic sanctions, global warming and a deteriorating environment loom as large if not larger as a threat to the well-being of Iran’s 75 million people.

“Here in Iran, we are situated in a low-precipitation belt of the planet,” Gary Lewis, the UN resident coordinator in Iran, told Al-Monitor. “One primary concern must therefore be water. We are at risk of a perfect storm: water scarcity, land degradation and climate change all feeding into each other.”

Water resources are dwindling as Iran’s three major lakes dry up, the majority of the country’s other lakes are also in the process of disappearing and becoming contaminated with wastes and chemicals, neighboring countries build dams that divert shared rivers away from Iran and underground aquifers are depleted.

Lake Orumieh in northwestern Iran has been “despoiled to the point of destruction,” wrote Eskander Firouz, a legendary Iranian environmentalist, in his 2005 book The Complete Fauna of Iran. Lake Hamoun in the southeast, “once the greatest expanse of fresh water in Iran, is now totally dry,” according to Firouz, while a third once-giant lake — Bakhtegan near the southern city of Shiraz, the third-largest lake in Iran, dried up completely almost a decade ago.

Lewis told Al-Monitor that expanding agriculture to feed Iran’s growing population has led to “unsustainable harvesting of aquifers.” There are currently about 650,000 wells in Iran that provide more than half the water consumed in the country, he said.

Despite the looming shortages, Iranians do not use water efficiently.

Domestic use of water resources in Iran is about 70% more than the global average, said Lewis. In Tehran, shopkeepers can be seen hosing off the sidewalks in front of their stores instead of sweeping up the dirt; during last week’s heat wave, municipal workers also liberally watered public gardens with hoses rather than using more scientific means of irrigation.

Lewis said official statistics show that there is only 30% water-use efficiency in agriculture, a sector which accounts for over 90% of water use in Iran. Deforestation and desertification are also major problems contributing to land degradation, he said.

“We need to price the resources we are consuming fairly — including water,” Lewis said. “And we need to build climate-change resilience at the community level over and above what we do to change attitudes at the national and sectoral levels.”

While there are dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges and protected areas in Iran, biodiversity is decreasing and more needs to be done to bolster guards assigned to prevent poaching, experts say. Firouz told Al-Monitor that Iran’s wildlife has declined by 85%, that rangelands are being degraded and destroyed and that the best of Iran’s forests have disappeared and have often been replaced by orange trees and unsustainable agriculture.

Air pollution is another major problem. Since the 1979 revolution, Tehran’s population nearly tripled from about 4.5 million to more than 12 million people, who sometimes all seem to be jamming the roads at the same time.

Relatively cheap gasoline — still less than $1 a gallon after subsidy reforms — the poor quality of locally made gas (which Iran must refine because of sanctions that block imports) and the preponderance of cars with substandard emissions controls are major contributors to pollution in the Iranian capital. The lack of a more extensive and reliable public-transportation system is also a major factor. The Tehran municipality has invested more in roads, tunnels and flyovers that benefit private automobile owners than in buses, subways and trams that could relieve congestion and pollution.

The pollution has serious health consequences. In the winter, when the air is at its dirtiest because of inversion which traps pollutants under a layer of cold air on windless days, the Tehran municipality often closes offices and schools and those Iranians who do venture out wear face masks.

Over the past several years, Iran has also been suffering from increasingly severe dust and sandstorms. These are especially impacting western provinces bordering Iraq, from where the storms mainly originate. According to Lewis, “The sandstorms have been caused by the abandonment of vast swathes of agricultural land during the past 10 years as well as the drying out of wetlands and rivers. Where they are hitting Iran hardest is in agriculture, infrastructure, the environment and public health.”

In the height of summer, pollution levels are also high, particularly in south Tehran, which is at a lower elevation than the wealthier north. A pharmacist in the south Tehran neighborhood of Javadieh told Al-Monitor that asthma is a growing problem, particularly among young children and that there is a shortage of inhalers — because of sanctions and government mismanagement — to treat this potentially life-threatening condition.

Iran has also been slow to embrace renewable energy, which currently provides less than 1% of energy demand.

All is not bleak, however. There is rising environmental consciousness in Iran, particularly among educated youth. A middle-aged ecologist named Mohammad Darvish writes frequently on the subject and has predicted that Iran will someday have a “green” movement that is environmental rather than ideological in nature.

Firouz, who headed Iran’s first department of the environment before the 1979 revolution, told Al-Monitor the topic is increasingly covered by the Reformist-moderate Iranian press, including Etemaad and Shargh newspapers, and that more than 1,000 young people have formed a blog on Facebook devoted to his work on biodiversity, conservation and the need for better planning that takes the environment into account.

The United Nations is also doing its part, advising Iran on reforestation, carbon sequestration and wetland-recovery programs.

“Countries of the region — including Iran — need to learn the hard lessons of the Chinese development model, which in recent decades has seen substantial wealth generated but at massive environmental cost,” Lewis told Al-Monitor. “But the real breakthrough will only come when discussion on the impact of climate change … goes beyond a discourse between the technocrats and policy-makers. The public as a whole needs to understand what is at stake. For this, we need much, much more public discussion and awareness raising.”

Barbara Slavin is Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council where she focuses on Iran. On Twitter: @BarbaraSlavin1

Leave a Comment August 22, 2013



Mohammad Darvish’s Combating Desertification is by far the most active environment-oriented Persian blog. His blog is anextension of his other advocacy work regarding the necessity of maintaining the ecosystem in the face of development, including from tourism, dams, and other industrial uses of land, water and air.

controling desertification

Leave a Comment April 12, 2013

Iran’s green gladiator!

Iran’s subtle, persistent voice for environmentalism

Mohammad Darvish is on an often lonesome quest to elevate Iran’s environmental IQ, even daring to oppose nuclear power. So far Iran’s leaders are tolerating it.

Mohammad Darvish, who works at a state-run botanical reserve on the outskirts of Tehran,

is on a mission to warn Iran about the environmental perils facing the nation. (December 4, 2012)

By Ramin Mostaghim and Alexandra Sandels, Los Angeles Times
December 4, 2012
TEHRAN — His son is named after the river born where the Tigris and Euphrates meet. His wife once complained that he loved a rare species of yellow deer more than her.

His realm runs from sprawling salt deserts to the snowcapped peaks of the Zagros Mountains, from southern marshes along the Persian Gulf to damp northern forests known as the “cloud jungle.”

Mohammad Darvish, 47, is Iran’s green gladiator, engaged in a quixotic, often lonesome quest to elevate his homeland’s environmental IQ. In a nation where security and economic concerns overshadow threats to a varied and fragile ecosystem, he even dares to oppose nuclear power, sacrosanct to Iran’s leaders.

“It is budding, but it is far from being a movement,” the indefatigable Darvish says of environmental consciousness in Iran. “But I am sure the environment will be a full-fledged movement one day, and Iran will have Green [political] parties that will send members to parliament.”

Darvish, working from a state-run botanical reserve on the western outskirts of this traffic-clogged capital, is a subtle but persistent voice, direct but non-threatening in his message as he warns about desertification, deforestation, pollution, climate change and other perils to this mostly arid land.

Unlike the country’s understandably edgy political activists, who face the constant threat of police harassment, Darvish has a carefree demeanor. Each Sunday, he spreads his message in a morning spot on state TV. He also writes a widely read environmental column in a moderate newspaper and a blog focusing on Iran’s ecology.

As in the West, much of the public discussion about Iran among its citizens focuses on the sanctions-driven economic crisis and the cataclysmic prospect of war, both related to Tehran’s nuclear development efforts.

The West and Israel allege that Iran harbors a hidden agenda to build an atomic bomb. Tehran contends that its research is for purely peaceful purposes: energy generation and the production of isotopes for cancer treatment.

Iran’s ever-vigilant information overseers have tolerated Darvish’s anti-nuclear advocacy, perhaps in part because the theme is a relatively discreet one in his work, far from a crusade. His opposition is based on ecological threats, he emphasizes, not strategic ones.

“I am not a nuclear scientist, but I believe producing nuclear energy to be used for electricity is too costly and prone to environmental hazards,” Darvish says, sitting on a bench in a wooden cabin on the reserve’s rambling grounds.

“In any natural disaster, or if Israel attacks us, then nuclear pollution is our most dangerous hazard.… Why should we increase our vulnerability by using nuclear plants for energy, while more environmentally friendly technology is available?”

Darvish avoids polemics. As a public worker — he is one of several managers at the state reserve — his preferred style is to address issues, not attack officials.

“Darvish, at the end of the day, is a state employee and civil servant,” says Naser Karami, a climatologist and editor of an environmental news agency who agrees with many of Darvish’s positions.

Karami says Iranians are “being told one lie after the other” about environmental threats in a country that doesn’t get high marks for safeguarding its natural heritage.

Iran ranked 114th among 132 nations in 2012 on the so-called Environmental Performance Index, which tracks various indicators of environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. Switzerland ranked No. 1; Iraq finished last. (The United States, where the index was developed on a pair of Ivy League campuses, ranked 49th, just ahead of Argentina and behind Australia.)

The air was so polluted in Tehran this week that Iranian authorities announced Monday that schools and state-run offices would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, essentially shutting down much of the capital.

Darvish, a native of Tehran who has a master’s degree in environmental management from Tehran University, traces his passion to childhood trips to the zoo and summers spent at his grandfather’s rural home. There he was exposed to livestock, wildlife and a sense of liberation.

“I strolled and daydreamed,” he recalls of that youthful idyll.

Iranians are not impervious to environmental concerns. The Internet and a growing eco-tourism sector have helped raise awareness. Road construction and pipeline-laying in sensitive areas stir up public emotions, as do emissions-linked urban air pollution and oil contamination.

“There is much more awareness” compared with a decade ago, says Darvish. Still, he says, environmental activism remains largely confined to elite circles. It is well off the radar screens of most Iranians, who are focused on paying bills and feeding their families.
“For me, social problems and economic concerns are the top priority,” says Ali Moueni, 20, a film and theater student interviewed in a Tehran cafe, who said he had never heard of Darvish. “Environmental issues are secondary, but they sometimes catch my eye.”

Others are more engaged.

“I think environmental issues are important and Iran is facing a sort of quandary, or two options,” says Masoud Loghman, 29, a cultural editor who follows Darvish’s writings. “One is to let urbanization continue at the expense of total destruction of the environment, or to focus on sustained growth with environmentally friendly industries and lifestyles.”
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Preservation is clearly not a priority for Iran’s rulers, desperate for economic development amid crushing Western sanctions linked to the nuclear program. But even amid widespread economic uncertainty, signs of nascent awareness are unmistakable, as are government responses.

Last year, authorities arrested dozens who rallied to save shrinking Lake Urmia, one of the world’s largest salt lakes, now ravaged by drought and the damming of feeder rivers in Iran’s northwest. Officials said the protesters were arrested for demonstrating without a permit, but some activists suspected hostility against ethnic Azeris, the predominant population in the area.

Besides his stand against nuclear energy, Darvish has also voiced opposition to a mega-project that would transport desalinated Caspian Sea water to the parched northern city of Semnan, a cherished proposal of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Darvish has labeled the project a technical and natural folly. But he says he hasn’t faced any retribution.

Iran’s leadership does seem distressed about the massive dust storms that blow in with ever-increasing frequency from neighboring Iraq, usually in the spring and summer. The dust limits visibility, causes respiratory ailments and prompts residents of some border-area cities to don gauze masks.

Sometimes, the storms reach as far as Tehran, near Darvish’s snug office on the lush 360-acre state reserve, which is managed by Iran’s Research Institute of Forestry and Rangelands, Darvish’s employer.

The sanctuary, technically known as a herbarium, was established in the 1960s, during the era of Iran’s pro-Washington monarchy, in collaboration with U.S. botanists.

Here, female gardeners bicycle along dirt paths that wind through verdant microclimates and artificial forests. Native species coexist with exotic trees from Japan and elsewhere, many labeled with their scientific designations. Water cascades from a trio of waterfalls. Several man-made lakes mimic the marine landscape near the Caspian Sea, an area once home to the Caspian tiger, now extinct.

In the evenings, Darvish returns to the city and often shares vegetarian fare with his son, Arvand, 12, who was given the Persian name of a river known in Arabic as the Shatt al Arab, which forms part of the marshy southern border between Iran and Iraq. The waterway’s environs were killing fields during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Although his country is in turmoil again, the self-styled watchdog of Iran’s natural world finds a measure of peace and tranquillity in his botanic refuge.

“I walk in this haven,” Darvish says, “to feel better and refresh myself.”

Special correspondents Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Sandels from Beirut. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment December 8, 2012

Iran’s nature does not have enough supporters in Iran

A while ago an incident in the Abr forest region of Shahrood (a city in Semnan province) Province caused the environmentalists great despair. As a number of 150 trees were cut down by a group of local villagers, living near this marvelous forest, overnight. They stated their dissatisfaction with the resistance from the Environmental Protection Institution against construction of a road crossing through the forest as the reason behind this behavior. However, this incident was neither the first nor will it be the last of the confrontations between locals and organizations responsible for the environment and natural resources in Iran. Confrontation between rangers and some ranchers, farmers, hunters and charcoal makers are usual examples of the apparent conflict between local communities’ interests and the considerations so as to protect the nature.

That only in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Provine, yearly one thousand hectares of Zagros forests turns into charcoal, or the constant cultivation of Zagros jungle understory despite knowing what hazard it would be to these jungles biomass capacity, the fact that the never-ending greed of the ranchers and farmers in occupying the land has been and still is being announced as the most important factor causing destruction of the northern and western natural habitats In Iran, that the refuse collection crisis and its landscape contamination is now becoming a threatening trend, obliteration of the oldest and the most valuable botanical garden being met with silence just as the dolphin slaughter in Persian Gulf and the drilling of multiple illegal wells as the existing ones are being overly used  (causing soil depletion), and so on and so on … are all indications of one single sad yet true reality: that Iran’s nature, the way it deserves, does not have enough supporters, does it?


The issue becomes bolder as we realize the conditions are not the same worldwide. In fact in many countries, environmentalists enjoy such value and position that would entitle them to winning the decrees to stop nuclear power plants from operation as we recently witnessed as in the cases of Germany, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. Sometime ago, when  Merkel’s government announced its refusal of cooperating in construction of a  dam on one of the major headwaters of Euphrates, many received it in astonishment;   however, the surprise was even bigger when people realized the withdrawal was neither due to financial reasons nor to the disloyalty of the Turk  party towards their commitments, but the German government being forced by the activist pressure had no other option other than to give up the project and pay the due financial compensation.

The story was that the environmentalists as well as the green party in Germany had threatened Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union: that provided her government do not step back from signing the cooperation, they will shake the cornerstones of the coalition government which is what happened after “Stuttgart 21” when some of the most influential members of Merkel’s party and some cabinet ministers were, due to what was regarded as carelessness, were forced to resign.

Having said that, there is one considerable difference between building a dam in Turkey and building an underground station in Stuttgart for which 300 trees were about to be cut down. The fear of losing 300 trees in a city in Germany seems logical as it directly affects the quality of Germans’ lives, but when it comes to a dam in Turkey, no such thing will happen to Germans and their country. on the contrary, at the time of economical crisis, through such source of income provided by such a profitable and lucrative cooperation, Germans could improve their economy as well as their lives.


Nevertheless, the German Greens feared that in case of building the dam, desertification would accelerate in Mesopotamia, the number of dust source areas in Iraq and its neighboring countries (especially Iran) would increase and also the subsurface water level would go down.

In other words, the atmosphere dominant in Germany could be defined as people’s love of nature is no longer domestic or local but it has reached a global level and these days German environmentalists not only struggle to push their government to take domestic eco-friendly measures, but are also worried about ecological stability thousands of miles away. Even further, they are ready to pay for it, why? Why are the people born and raised in Germany ready to trade their own comfort for our habitable planet stability? Why?

The answer to this question, however, is not so hard, specifically after we learn it has been nearly half a century since instructive and informative ecological contents have been included in Germans’ school curriculum; in addition, scarcely does one find a newspaper or a magazine in which at least one column is not dedicated to environmental issues daily, weekly or monthly. Moreover, their broadcast media interestingly and critically analyze eco-related policies in Germany as well as the whole EU. In short, the ever-increasing people’s fondness for nature protection is the desirable result of a 50-year logical and standardized plan.

Now, can “you” name one invariable weekly or monthly TV program on Iranian national TV channels analyzing the recent eco-related issues just as we observe it in other domains like sports (90) and cinema (Haft)? Can “you” even name one fixed daily page dedicated to environment in one of the mass-printed Iranian newspapers criticizing decisions and policies in this domain? It’s even more depressing when taking a look at primary and secondary school curriculum, learning how little paid attention to environment as much as we are unable to track the foot-prints of such teachings and consideration in our cinema and TV series.

Now is high time we went back to our key question; is there still anybody who is still not sure “why Iranian nature, the way it deserve does not have supporters and protectors”?

6 Comments March 18, 2012

What does Parishan’s self burning tell us?

Last week Iran’s nature took one of its finest sons and most refined adepts into its heart for ever. Pure body of Kambiz Bahram-Soltani was buried in the section 14 of “Behesht é Zahra” in the midst of the great sorrow of his bereaved friends and fans. He was the man who fought from Miankale to Kolah-ghazi and from Dena to Parishan, till his last breath for the love of the nature.

Last June, a day I will never forget, while walking on the desolate bed of Parishan, Bahram-Soltani was describing his devastation to me; “To see Parishan like this makes me Parishan, Darvish” he sighed. (Parishan means anguished distressed in Farsi).

He is not with us now to see how Parishan, the greatest body of sweet water in Iran, became even more dry , thanks to the indifference of you and me, stayed dry for so long until it chose to put an end to its agony and eventually gave in to self-burning.

In general, for what reason do whales commit suicide? Why do mountain goats jump off the highest cliffs and end their lives? Why do dolphins lose the way of the sea and choose to follow the path of death? is it not because they do not see any other way to prolonged existence?

Parishan was doomed to the same fate when its most important feeders the Barm flat and its surrounding mountain skirts were facing the worst nudity of their past 500 years and a total 80% of the marvelous oaks of Zagros Mountains have virtually dried out and vanished forever.

Despite such dire straits, we witness everyday that cultivation of horticultural and agricultural products on the under story of Barm clearly accelerates and plunders the very last ounces of moisture in the soil, leaving Parishan no chance whatsoever, to fill up its water springs and regain its life.

We also know that nearly one thousand illegal wells have been drilled to compensate for the excessively expanding agricultural lands and for the low level of precipitation, which of course does not make the situation any better.

On top of this, we should add the faulty decision of putting the Kazeroon combined-cycle power plant into operation, in such location that makes it an expropriating burden to Parishan knowing it would extract the very last drops of water from the lake for its cooling systems.

In the meanwhile, we hear that the new industrial town of Kazeroon is planned to be located in a way that its sewage might pose another threat, in terms of drinking water quality, to both Parishan plain and the city of Kazeroon.

This is why Parishan has been burning since last Wednesday, it committed self-burning the same way Soltan Abad é Shiraz (in Qareh daq) burned last year which resulted in a phenomenon that neither the present nor the past generation had seen and not even heard before.

In fact, what happens is that the lower layers of the soil in the wetland environment reaches an extent of dryness that the plant remnants, so called peat, decompose and produce methane gas faster than normal so that the soil can easily ignite as soon as the temperature rises to a certain level, and the fire spreads quickly to the entire area.

Therefore the over exploitation of the ground water aquifers, driven by a desire of being able to boast about self sufficiency in agriculture regardless of the price, is the reason behind the land subsidence and the resultant soil self immolation. Once all organic assets of the sub-surface beds are destroyed there will be no sign of soil or of the soil-born life.

Thus, developing sustainable consumption patterns, increasing irrigation efficiency in agriculture and reducing the waste rates in this sector, maintaining the livestock and pasture balance, inhibiting the operation of the intensive industrial centers as well as suspending bills such as “leisure agriculture”, and finally introducing alternative income options for farmers and ranchers are among the foremost measures that should be taken to reduce the dependency of livelihood on the land and to set the ground for the revival of the landscapes such as Parishan,  Arjan, Barm, Zagros, Mianjangal; so that they could bring life back to the the local inhabitants of Fars province.

5 Comments February 7, 2012

Shadegan the unhappy happiness!

SHADEGAN” is derived from the word Shad (happy) in Farsi and means happiness.

It has been nearly two decades since Shadegan, Iran’s largest wetland, was listed in Montreux record. The record addresses the endangered waters and is primarily aimed at giving the states heads-up for if they hesitate to take timely and efficient action, not only will they lose the areas listed in the Ramsar international convention, but they also will truly confirm the fact that an internationally important wetland is an extravagance they cannot afford and do not deserve. Haplessly, however, the governors of Pardisan building (Iran’s environmental conservation organization), resting assured of their chairs, have never bowed to such conventions and threats.

I need to mention that the wetland with its area of almost 538000 hectares, covers a little more than one third of the area of all wetlands in Iran which have been internationally recognized and included in the Ramsar convention. Even though Shadegan, with an area of almost 538000 hectares, occupies less than 0.3%  of the entire country, it provides a natural habitat for 30% of the all bird population (154 species), 25 % of all mammal population (40 species), and 45% of all fish population (36 species of wetland fish plus 45 species of sea fish). In addition, almost 30 major societies of plants consisting of 110 species (5.1% of Iran’s plants population), 3 species of amphibians, and 9 species of reptiles; and finally 4 different types of shrimps, all on the verge of nonexistence, are amongst inhabitants cohabiting in this matchless habitat. With the prospect of 100000 locals, living within the immediate vicinity of the wetland, who will possibly lose their only source of livelihood for which they have no alternative, the extent and depth of the disaster becomes even more alarming.

Yet the question is what have we done, since the convention, so as to control the situation? Have we been able to control the constant oil spill from old worn out pipes into the area? Have we been able to preserve the wetland’s water right? Have we thwarted illegal hunting? Have we prevented the sewage from sugar cane, steel and petrochemical industries from entering the wetland? Have we relocated the residential areas inside the wetland elsewhere? Have we built the infrastructure required to create an affluent eco-tourism? Have we issued sufficient permits or given enough freedom of action to environment conservation NGOs? Have we given a single thought to the existence of 30 petrochemical units and their subsequent pollution in the area? Have we…?

Do we need to review the answers to all these questions? Do I really need to tell you that the water entering Shadegan has decreased by nearly 30% and that the quality of the remaining water is in fact so poor that it is virtually impossible to find a living thing? Last year, I (author) had the chance of riding over the lake by boat twice and two hours each time. Much to my regret,  not even one single living creature could be seen slithering amongst the water to promise a brighter future. By the same token, the studies on the sweet water part of Shadegan conducted by Aquaculture Research Center of Southern Iran in 1995, 2008 and 2010 show significant decline in the quality and quantity indices confirming the extent of the critical situation; These studies also indicate a biomass production rate of about 4.5 times less than previous years.

It is even more saddening to learn that owing to the opening of Omidieh refinery, the wetland is now losing another 6583000 m3 of its annual water right which is no doubt a good reason to give the authorities in charge of Iran’s environmental conservation a standing ovation for their remarkable determination to preserve our motherland’s ecological capacity!!! Apparently Shadegan will no longer be “happy” and Iran will continue to be the record holder for the number of wetlands still standing on the Montreux register! We are, however, surprisingly enough still living a healthy and prosperous life, aren’t we?!

22 Comments January 26, 2012

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