IRAN – TEHRAN – Wildfire has burnt 7,017 hectares of areas under the management of the Department of Environment (DOE) since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21).
While in the same period last year, 4,760 hectares were haunted by fire, so wildfire has increased by 34 percent, Reza Harati, an official with the DOE, said, IRNA reported.
To preserve the existing biodiversity over the wide geographic expanse of Iran, four types of areas have been designated for preservation and protection, including, national parks, wildlife refuges, protected areas, and natural national monuments, he explained, highlighting, currently, the DOE holds supervision over 18 million hectares.
The monitoring and protection of the areas against degradation, hunting, and wildfire are related to the DOE, and the rest is managed by the Forests, Rangelands, and Watershed Management Organization, he noted.
Most of the causes of the fires were accidental, but there were intentional and natural causes, as well. Judicial cases are being investigated for the intentions, he stated.
He went on to say that “unfortunately, some farmers burn their agricultural lands, and due to being located next to the protected areas, the fire spreads to those areas as well.
Also, because of ethnic, local, and tribal differences, some locals commit arson, he regretted, adding, sometimes, they set fire to the regions in retaliation of a poacher’s illegal hunt.”
Since the beginning of this year, Kermanshah province with 1,802 hectares has experienced the most wildfires in the four regions, followed by Fars, Bushehr, Tehran, Qazvin, Khuzestan, and Mazandaran provinces, respectively, he announced.
“At the beginning of March and over the first two months of this year, the country received above-normal rainfall, which increased vegetation and wildfire risk, he also stated.
Protected areas are mostly impassable, so it is very difficult to transport equipment when on fire unless a helicopter drops forces to the area, he explained.
This year, purchasing portable equipment can be of help, on the other hand, it is very important to educate the local communities living around the protected areas; because protecting nature can play an important role in reducing fires, in addition to knowing how to put out a fire.
Humans are the main cause
Ali Abbasnejad, the commander of the forest protection unit of Forests, Range, and Watershed Management Organization, said in July 2019 that over 95 percent of wildfires in the country is due to human-caused ignition from unattended campfires, debris, and negligently discarded cigarettes.
He went on to add that some of the wildfires also are intentional acts of arson, some set fire to another’s properties which is rooted in regional disputes.
“Some 83 percent of the country’s total land area amounting to 135 million hectares is covered by natural resources. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient human forces and facilities to protect our natural resources.”
Jamshid Mohabbat Khani, commander of the protection unit of the DOE said in June that the number of rangers in Iran is one-tenth of the global standard, which is a ranger for every 12,000 hectares, while it should be a ranger per 1,000 hectares.
Regarding the people’s role in wildfires and the lack of law in this field, Mohabbat Khani, said that last year (ended on March 19), 12 percent of fires were naturally set, on the other hand, 18 percent of fires were an act of arson.
Reza Aflatooni, the deputy director of the Forests, Rangelands, and Watershed Management Organization for legal affairs, in June announced that people who deliberately set fire to forests and pastures are sentenced to at least 10 years in prison.
Farmers, ranchers, and gardeners must obtain permission from natural resources officials for burning their garden plant residues, he said.
Qasem Sabz’ali, commander of the forest protection unit of the Forests, Range, and Watershed Management Organization, said in April 2018 that some 15,000 hectares of forests burn in wildfires annually in Iran that 95 percent of them are caused by humans.
Forest wildfire brings a heavy economic burden amounting to 560 million rials (about $13,000) per hectare for the country, he added.