TEHRAN – Around 456,000 hectares of land in the northwestern province of Ardabil are protected and prohibited areas.
The provincial environment ministry manages 174,000 hectares of protected areas and 282,000 hectares of no-hunting areas, quoted IRNA Hassan Qasempour, director of the provincial environment ministry.
Regarding the difference between protected areas and no-hunting areas, he said that in no-hunting areas, rangers only prevent illegal hunting, but in protected areas, they also prevent tree felling, he explained.
Statistics show that the growth rate of protected areas in Iran is higher than many countries, so the number of protected areas in Iran increased about 37 times from 1962 to 2018, compared to 26 times the world average.
In order to preserve the existing biodiversity in the vast geographic extent of Iran, four types of areas have been designated for conservation and protection, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, sanctuaries and national natural monuments. In 1997, the Department of Environment (DOE) oversaw 7,563,983 hectares of such areas.
There are currently 30 national parks, 170 protected areas, 45 nature reserves and 37 national natural monuments in the country, covering an area of about 19 million hectares.
According to recent studies, about 1,300 species of vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic fish, about 30,000 species of invertebrates and 8,000 species of plants have been identified in the country.
There are currently 30 national parks, 170 protected areas, 45 nature reserves and 37 national natural monuments covering an area of about 19 million hectares in the country.
After the establishment of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), various high-level meetings between scientists were held, and new parks with new management emerged in different countries. In Iran, too, the issue of protecting hunting grounds became a more general issue, so in 1956 the Hunting Club of Iran was formed.
It later evolved into an organization that oversees hunting and fishing activities in the country. In 1971 the organization changed its name to its current name and notably hosted the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance that same year in the city of Ramsar.
The Convention on Biological Diversity predicts that the world’s average protected area will reach 30 percent of a country’s total area. There are 11.6 percent of protected areas in Iran. Therefore, the DOE submitted 29 areas covering around 700,000 hectares to the Department of Agriculture as new areas, but there are some problems.
Of course, despite all these problems, the number of protected areas in Iran is higher than in many countries in the world, or over a 40-year period, the growth of these areas in Iran is higher than the global average, Ali Bali, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Habitats and regional affairs of the DOE has said.
The global average for protected areas is about 15.7 percent of a country’s area, although the average in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Canada, India and Nepal is over 30 to 40 percent, he noted.
From 1962 to 2018, the average number of protected areas worldwide increased 26-fold, compared to 37-fold in Iran. Of course, this growth relates to the number of protected areas, but the question is how large that number is, he explained.
Pointing out the challenges of protected areas, he said that one of the main threats to protected areas is habitat destruction, which can be carried out by government agencies to implement development projects or, in a more limited area, by local people.
The next challenge is mining and mining activities. We have a big challenge in this area; Mining is the most incompatible activity against protected areas, he explained, citing poaching as another challenge for protected areas.
Drought, dust, man-made and natural hazards such as wildfires are other challenges threatening these areas, and on the other hand, village development in or around protected areas also threatens the dynamism of these areas, he concluded.