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.

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?!