Iran’s Government Criticized For Inaction Against Large Wildfires
Wildfires have been raging across five Iranian provinces in the western and southern parts of the country for several days causing extensive damage to the environment and wildlife.
The fire which initially ran across a part of the Zagros mountain range spanning from north to south in the Iranian plateau started from the forests in Kohkiloyeh and Boyer Ahmad Province but later affected highlands in four other provinces of Ilam, Kurdistan, Khuzestan and Bushehr.
According to reports coming from Iran, the government has not been able to help because of lack of coordination among its various parts and due to the scarcity of fire extinguishing equipment.
The head of the Forestry Organization of Iran says helicopters were not sent to extinguish the fires as the organization owes 300 billion rials (about $2 million) to its own Ministry of Defense. Latest reports say the Iranian Planning and Budget Organization has undertaken to pay back half of the debt to the armed forces.
Iranian environmental activists have criticized the government for the lack of coordination as well as criticizing the Iranian government for ignoring the problem.
Kaveh Madani, a former deputy of the environmental agency chief in Iran, wrote in a tweet, borrowing a verse from Persian poetry: “Zagross burnt and Iran flamed but we couldn’t do anything except watching.”
Saturday evening, when Javad Heidarian, a journalist and environmental activist broke the news on Twitter about local people’s success in extinguishing the fire in Khaeiz reserve, Madani in another tweet called for cooperation on the part of the people, activists, the government and military forces. Madani left Iran in 2018 after security forces arrested dozens of environmentalists on the fabricated charges of espionage.
Some reports say the wildfire first started in Khaeiz conservation area in Kohkiloyeh and Boyer Ahmad province four days ago.
Locals say the fire is raging in hard-to-reach highlands and putting it out is not possible without using helicopters. Forestry Organization Chief Massoud Mansour has confirmed that the organization owes between 200 to 300 billion rials to the Ministry of Defense.
Mansour said that during recent days a few helicopters were deployed to the region that were mainly used to carry fire brigade personnel in Lorestan and Kohkiloyeh and Boyer Ahmad provinces. Another chopper was sent to Bushehr but it has been grounded because of technical problems.
He said based on agreement between the Forestry Organization and the Ministry of Defense, helicopters should have been deployed to 16 bases and operated to meet the organization’s need.
Iranian government officials have been silent about the debt to the Ministry of Defense and the delay in the deployment of helicopters although they had promised local officials to help.
Iranian analyst Saeed Bashirtash wrote in a tweet: “Zagross is burning and the Islamic Republic has not provided any fire extinguishing equipment while it has given $30 billion to Bashar Assad and spent millions of dollars on promoting hijab and suppressing protesters in Iran. Zagross mountains, the River Karoun and Lake Urmia are not important for the Islamic Republic. As far as they are concerned, they have won Iran as booty.”
In a critical reaction on Twitter, Mojgan Jamshidi, a journalist, posted heart wrenching pictures of burnt wildlife and wrote: “The statesmen do not believe the forest is as precious as an apartment in affluent Tehran.”
Meanwhile, according to the presidential website, Hassan Rouhani spoke over the phone with the Defense Minister and the environmental agency chief about controlling the wildfires.
According to the latest reports, fires are still raging in Dil area near Gachsaran. Meanwhile, the news from Bushehr Province say the fire in Mond conservation area in Dashtestan highlands has been put out.
Reports say part of the fire has been the result of arson, however, high winds in the region have quickly spread the fires.