The night for Mohammed Darvish

Mohammad Darvish, born on January 24th, 1966, has been the loudest and the most persistent voice for the environment in Iran. For more than the scope of thirty years, he has managed to produce more content is his blog, Combating Desertification, than any other environmentalist on the cyberspace, depicting the ups and downs of the Iran’s environment. He has managed to open an illuminating window into the devastating reality of our country’s greatest assets and at the same time, tirelessly taking practical measures to invoke hope into many of us disillusioned and despaired of rescue.

He is a man of many titles and during his professional life, he has been appointed to important posts in the realm of environment; however, it is not how or why we dearly keep him in our hearts. He is a man of true integrity; he speaks his heart regardless of the consequences; he is humble; he is modest; he lived in a rental basement when working as a director for the “Environment Protection Organization”; he is friendly and amiable and, more than anything else, he has not forgotten who he is, where he came from and what he fights for. Mohammad Darvish is a representative of a rarity we have of always felt the lack of in our country.

His 53rd birthday is around the corner. I am happy his efforts are not unheard of and there are women and men who appreciate his precious life, which he spent for the inhabitants of our home country. May he have a splendid night in the midst of his friends and fans.

Farhad Salamatbakhsh

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.” Said McCain in the interview.
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.” He added “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.”

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?

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.

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.

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)
Iran’s Rouhani outmaneuvering hard-liners on Syria, nuclear talks
Iran’s Rouhani outmaneuvering hard-liners on Syria, nuclear talks
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President-elect Hassan Rouhani may be Iran’s hope for moderation
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Oman sultan’s visit reportedly a mediation bid between Iran and U.S.
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.


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

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.

Petition to Save World Heritage on the Tigris River in Mesopotamia

There is only need for 16921 more signatures to make UNICCO regard the bellow petition, as it is mentioned in the petition itself, as a credible global request putting the matter on its executive agenda. As a result, the international pressure on Turkey will be even more forcing its government to cease to construct their lethal dam on the Ilissos. Therefore, please sign it and send the link to your friends.


Distinguished Members of the World Heritage Committee,
We address you gravely concerned about the threat posed to potential World Heritage Sites in
Mesopotamia, a region of great cultural and natural importance which is endangered by the Ilisu
Dam Project on the Tigris River.
This area is unique in many ways. It hosts great geographical, climatic and biological diversity.
The step of transition from nomadic pastoralism to sedentary agriculture took place here.
Thousands of archaeological sites bear testimony of dozens of cultures which intermingled here
and provide the exceptional chance to gain further knowledge of humanity’s history. Nowadays
the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, particularly Kurds, Arabs, Aramaeans and Turkmen, are the
carriers of this worldwide unique cultural heritage.
However, the tremendous cultural and natural heritage is in great danger due to the construction
of the Ilisu Dam on the Turkish stretch of the Tigris River. Designed to impound an area of more
than 310 km², it would impact the right to food and water of thousands of people in and around
the planned reservoir as well as downstream. It also threatens precious riverine ecosystems
hosting numerous endangered species, hundreds of archaeological sites including the ancient
town of Hasankeyf in Turkey, as well as the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq.
Hasankeyf, with a history of at least 10,000 years, is unique in being continuously populated
from Neolithic times through Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages until today. It is a world
class example of a site that combines both outstanding cultural heritage and natural landscape
features. A recent study shows that together with the surrounding Tigris valley, Hasankeyf fulfils
nine out of the ten UNESCO criteria for World Heritage Sites – a level reached by hardly any
existing site. Should the Ilisu Dam be built, this heritage will be lost forever.
Owing to their outstanding value as the largest wetland in the Middle East and their function as a
home to the ‘Marsh Arabs’ with their distinct 5,000-year-old culture, the Marshlands of
Mesopotamia are on the Tentative List submitted by Iraq to the World Heritage Committee in
2003. After severe deterioration in the past decades, a major restoration program was started
after 2003. The progress achieved is under threat now due to the construction of the Ilisu Dam.
Dear Committee Members,
We, the undersigned, urge you to assess the impacts of the Ilisu Dam construction on the World
Heritage of the Mesopotamia region and to insist on the State Party to refrain from any action
infringing upon any sites bearing the potential to become a World Heritage Site.

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”?