Over forty years of neglect by the clerical regime have left the Iranian environment in an irreparable crisis. Iran has signed many international environment treaties, but in fact has not allocated resources to implement the guidelines as needed. The population is growing all the time, sewage needs are not met, neither for personal needs nor for industry. The so-called “Water Mafia” led by the IRGC, is redirecting water resources and building dams, to allow their allies to farm water intensive crops, but also to provide Hatem-al-Anbiya with unneeded projects.
Over the years this led to the loss of 50% of the forests in Iran, over 40% loss of wetlands and immense desertification, with rising of amplitude and frequency of Dust storms. Clearly this threatens the population and naturally this caused on the one hand migration to central cities, accompanied by growing air pollution and sewage problems, and on the other hand extensive protests and strike.
Animals can not protest, cannot leave their habitat and have no voice. Iranian wildlife doesn’t count for anything in the Islamic Republic and as it looks now, Iran will become the environmental nightmare of the region, causing damage to neighboring countries.
Over the last decades, there has been a massive deterioration in preservation of wildlife in Iran. The challenges that had to be met after the second world war, like over-pumping of ground water, desertification and increasing population needs, were hundred-fold after the Islamic revolution. Pressing domestic and regional challenges took over, military needs took first place and the Department of Environment (DOE, est. 1974) was depleted of content, leading to the decimation of game animals and bird population. The regulated areas were invaded by the military and other ministries and the animals left to unregulated areas with uncontrolled public interface, leading to pollution and poaching.
Over the years the DOE budget was low, just enough for salaries. The officials who ran the department lacked connections and importance, and even after president Rouhani, in an effort to appease the much more eco-aware western countries, appointed more competent figures, there was no real improvement. In fact, one of the leading figures, Kaveh Madani, was arrested by IRGC for speaking his mind about water challenges of Iran.
Even the lightly increased budget for the DOE is meant for water shortage and desertification, nothing for wildlife. Even If that should be the way, it is too little too late. Water and air pollution caused by oil spills, bad sewage treatment and plastic contamination. Iran usually has one or more cities in the top ten list of polluted towns, the Caspian see is at a critical stage and the Iranian Persian Gulf shores are unbearably filthy. Lake Urumieh, once the biggest lake in the middle east, has dried out and sand and dust storms are getting stronger and more frequent. This lake was essential for the migration route of thousands of birds, now vanished.
The Iranian regime doesn’t allocate resources for saving the environment, let alone the little wildlife left. There are plans, but no implementation. Many animals could not survive, even if the shooting and poaching stops. Iran needs not only a plan to save the once wonderful, wide diversity of fauna and flora, it needs to budget a profound change of attitude towards nature, to allocate the needed resources, to allow conversation with academics on a local and international levels, stop shutting activists up and instead recruit them to run the projects. They know how to handle the challenges, know what this or that species needs to survive, not in headlines, but in down-to-earth treatment. With the number of cheetahs downs to less than twenty and the open hunting of urial sheep, urgency is at hand.
If we don’t stop now, hundreds of species will be extinct within a few years, including important mammals and predators, animals of the steppe, like the great bustard and the persian onager, who’s extinction most probably will start an avalanche in wildlife extinction in the whole region.