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The Tehran-Shomal Construction Project:
Another step towards the destruction of the Iranian environment

The Iranian government has plans to renew construction of the Tehran-Shomal (Northern Iran) highway. The proposed 123 kilometer long and 26-meter wide highway will pass through the mountain forests of Alborz and Mazandaran to join Tehran with the northern cities of Chaloos, Noshahr, and Clardasht. These coastal cities are found where the narrow land strip between the Caspian coast and the mountains is at its narrowest and most attractive point and where the thickly forested northern slopes of the Alborz roll almost to the sea. Construction is set to begin in late 2000 by the Italian Astaldi Group and Iranian subcontractors such as the Tablieh Construction Company. According to the Director General of Highway Construction from the Ministry of Roads and Transport, the cost of the project will be 800 billion rials.

If built, the highway project will have severe environmental consequences. It will cause an enormous influx of people from the capital of 12 million inhabitants to the already overpopulated coastal zones. In addition, the highway will pass through sensitive ecosystems and its construction will require the destruction of forests, agricultural fields and gardens, and will increase the erosion of mountainsides and increase runoff. It will endanger a protected area of about 400,000 acres in the biologically diverse Alborz Mountains.

This road construction project was originally proposed by the Iranian parliament in 1995 with the support of then president Rafsanjani. The government was forced to interrupt the project, however, after protests by Iranian environmental experts and activists.

The original agreement between the government and the principle investors, the Mullah owned Bonyad Mostasafan Group, was that construction would take 7 years and that the 50 million cubic meters of excavated soil would be removed for free. When questioned by reporters about where they were going to take the excavated soil, the project's general manager only made jokes to avoid answering the question. General consensus among environmental experts at the time was that the excess soil would simply be dumped into the valleys along the highway.

The recent decision to resume the project was taken without any official environmental impact assessment and without any complaints from the Department of the Environment. In fact, there have been reports that bribes have been made to keep certain politicians quiet. Furthermore, with the recent closures of newspapers, the Iranian public has not been kept informed of the project and non-government environmental groups have found it difficult to be heard.

The Green Party of Iran is very concerned about the irreversible environmental consequences that will result from this construction project. We believe that the existing roads to the North should be modified instead of building a brand new highway, which will only destroy more of Iran's already dwindling forests. We call on environmental activists in Iran and around the world to help us stop the highway construction in Iran's northern forests.

Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in English or Farsi, or your own language:

Please send appeals to:

1) H.E. Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar
Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
and Head of the Department of the Environment
P.O. Box 5181,
No. 187 Ostad Nejatollahi Ave.
Tehran 15875 Islamic Republic of Iran
Tel: (98-21) 890 8233
Fax: (98-21) 890 8246

2) Mr. Seyed Amir Ayafat
Director General,
International Affairs and Public Relations,
Department of the Environment,
P.O. Box 5181,
No. 187 Ostad Nejatollahi Ave.
Tehran 15875, Islamic Republic of Iran
Tel: (98-21) 890 3720
Fax: (98-21) 890 8230

3) Mahmoud Hojjati
Minister of Roads and Transport
49 Taleghani Avenue
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Tel: (98-21) 646-7703
Fax: (98-21) 646-1866
Tlx. 213381

4) Eskandar Saeedi-Kia,
Director General of Highway Construction
Ministry of Roads and Transport
49 Taleghani Avenue
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: (98-21) 646-1866
Tlx. 213381

5) Mr. Ali Kholdbarin
Member of Council for Forest, Range & Soil
Center for Sustainable Development Studies and Application (CENESTA)
West 10 Juybar Street
Fatemi Square
14157 Tehran
Iran
Tel: (98-21) 885-3329
Fax: (98-21) 655-901

6) Shamse-din Shariat Nejad,
Head of Iranian High Council on Forests,
Ministry of Jihad Sazandegi (Rural Development),
Tehran, Iran;
Tel: (98-21) 244-6505 or 244-6537;
Fax: (98-21) 244-6551;
E-mail: Desert@Mavara.com.

The Green Party of Iran
August 22, 2000