Forests of Gilan on the Verge of Destruction
The Agricultural & Cattle Breeding Publication
Dec. 22, 1997, No. 761
Experts on natural resources in Gilan province say that poverty, deprivation, cultural poverty and excessive exploitation of resources coupled with growth of human and livestock population in forests have served to accelerate destruction of forests.
According to this group of experts, speedy measures to persuade jungle dwellers to move, along with their cattle, to new accommodation already prepared for them outside the forests, convert traditional ranches into semi-industrial ones, encourage forest dwellers to shift their occupation from animal husbandry to farming and further monitor the activities of wood companies can be effective in checking the increasing trend of forest destruction.
At present, 130,000 families in Gilan Province are engaged in traditional animal husbandry, camping in various parts of forests to graze their cattle numbering 1.3 million heads of livestock. Over 65 percent of the cattle breeders have each less than 100 heads of livestock.
Based on statistical surveys conducted by the Natural Resources Department of Gilan, owners of ranches burn 975,000 cubic meters of wood for heating and cooking purposes or for making diary products annually.
The surveys show that cattle breeders living in forests have destroyed over 30 hectares of industrial forests for establishment of 15,000 camping sites over the past two decades.
The director general of the provincial Natural Resources Department says that under a five year plan (1997-2001) over 6,000 forest dwelling families along with their cattle will be moved to places outside the forests. He said the aim of the plan is to drive the cattle out of the forests, protect the forests, provide employment opportunities for jungle dwellers and help them earn their living.
An expert with the provincial Natural Resources Department said that although between 10 to 15 million siblings are planted in an area of 2,500 to 3,000 hectares of land with an aim of reviving the forests of Gilan Province, this cannot keep pace with the trend of deforestation.
In addition to the losses inflicted on 565,000 hectares of forests in Gilan Province by the jungle dwellers, 450,000 cubic meters of wood are cut from the regional forests by Shafaroud company and other firms for use in paper and wood industries.
A provincial green area expert says that because of the large extent of the region, the losses inflicted by wood companies on forests by depleting them of trees, cannot be compared to the small damage caused by jungle dwellers over the past few decades.
Engineer Mohammad Reza Shirzad believes that in view of the fact that the total areas of forests in Gilan Province have reduced by half over the past 50 years, preservation of the remaining forests precedes their exploitation. The Natural Resources Department must consider reviving regional forests before issuing any exploitation permits.
The forests of Gilan Province, left from the third geological era, are the sole jungle deposit of the country where over 80 species of trees have been identified.
A group of environmentalists believe that with regards to the small area of forests left intact, any exploitation of them has no economic justification, and that the region as the habitat of native trees should remain intact and be protected.
A large number of university graduates in the fields of forestry, soil, natural resources and environment in Gilan Province recently sent a scroll to the Leader's representative in Gilan and the governor general of the province, cautioning against the destruction of forests by authorized companies.
The scroll read that depletion of forests of trees in a vast area of steep slopes by authorized firms particularly the Shafaroud company has changed the ecosystem of the region and triggered unusual landslide, soil corrosion, floods and drought in Gilan Province especially in Masal and Shanderman regions.
The graduates asked the provincial officials to ban cutting down trees in steep slopes over mountains which, because of such geographical location, had remained intact for thousands of years.
They said in their scroll that authorized wood companies particularly the Shafaroud company, by ignoring the fact that preservation is prior to exploitation, cut down huge trees located in steep slopes over mountains, causing the chopped trunks to roll down the mountain and damage other trees on their way.
This group of experts believe that 90 percent of areas planted by the Natural Resources Department of Gilan Province with an aim of reviving forests have been destroyed either by drought, cattle breeders or lack of proper care for siblings within the first years of their plantation.
Ayatollah Sheikh Sadeq Ehsanbakhsh, the Leader's representative in Gilan Province and the Friday prayer leader of Rasht has said that a group of profiteers are destroying forests through excessive exploitation of natural resources.
He disputed the claims of this group that revival of forests are in progress in parallel with their exploitation.
According to some reports coming in from western Gilan tens of hectares of resourceful forests of the province are secretly destroyed and turned into properties of land owners.
According to local sources, over the past two decades, hundreds of hectares of forests in mountainous areas particularly in Rahim Abad, Amlash, Chaboksar and Ejargah in Gilan have been destroyed and turned into properties of local land owners.
The officials of the provincial Natural Resources Department declined to give any explanation in this regard citing policies of the organization.