At The Threshold Of Bidding Farewell To
Ancient North Forests
" by Nasrindokht Khatibi
Review and Translation by Mahin Sorouri
This book is about the age-old
primeval Hircanian forests of
that through constant process of deforestation are on the verge of
The author,Mrs Nasrindokht
Khatibi, is the co-founder and a member of Earth Watchers'center a
non-profit ,non- government environmental organization in
She holds a B.A. degree in Geography and has worked as consultant to
different Iranian firms and companies. She is a true environmentalist
and believer in the conservation of natural resources. Her field of
specialization, her job-related experiences and her love of nature
have prompted her to write this informative and well-documented book .
She has dedicated the book to the lovers of nature who adamantly
to bid farewell to such natural treasures as the North Forests of Iran
and who strive
on national and international levels, to
conserve them in the nick of their remaining time.
The book consists of
introduction, six chapters, the author's last words, appendix with
sources and glossary of technical terms. Throughout the book charts,
tables and graphs, based on documented facts and figures are presented
along with many relevant, revealing pictures .The pictures are taken
by author or members of the organization
(E.W.C), during their many trips made
specifically to the forests and its surroundings to gather facts and
information. There are also some professionally taken pictures.
thanks Miss Sima Mostofy Javid who helped writing the book and Mrs.
Fereshteh Movassaghnejad who edited the book and finally Mrs. Mahin
Sorouri who made this English presentation of the book possible.
2005, from among 100 books, it was chosen the best-written
environmental book by the organization of non-governmental publishers
of Iran and won the Mehregan award.
though sustainable development, preservation of
habitat and natural resources such as forests, due to the efforts of
many non-government environmental organizations and responsible
international bodies, has become part of the governmental
policy-making in many countries throughout the world, author believes
that in Iran and most of the developing countries one often finds the
reversal of such trend. Due to many factors such as economic gains,
lack of knowledge and proper information, deforestation by government
agencies, private companies and profit- seeking individuals continues
in total disregard of national and international laws and policies.
Author offers a short historical
background and mentions that massive abuse of North-Forests of Iran
dates back to more than 130 years age when the profit seeking foreign
governments and even private foreign individuals obtained concessions
from the ignorant, greedy and selfish kings of Ghajar dynasty, to
plunder the forests at the pittance of their worth and value. The
trend continued during the span of Pahlavi dynasty to the end of
Mohammad Reza Shah's reign. After the 1979 revolution the persistent
pattern of abuse continued, but unfortunately on a much larger scale.
Unlike the past, the government officials and their cronies became the
instigator of profiteering and co- opted foreigners as their partners.
After a general description of
geographic location of North Forests, author mentions that historic
Caspian Sea in the olden times was "Hircony
Sea " derived from the name of forests and indigenous people of the
area. The name has been mentioned in Herodotos writings and found on
the tablets belonging to Daruis, the king of Achemenian dynasty,
dating back to 500 B.C.
describing the geological specifications, she explains that the
formation of Alborz Mountains took place during 2nd and 3rd
geological eras. The forests belong to the 3rd geological
era that due to their location on the east-westerly axis of Alborz
Mountains escaped the ice age of 4th era and as such are
considered to be unique forests and highly valuable genetic bank
Based on topography of the region she
divides these forests into northern, central and eastern Alborz , each
with a distinct variety of plant coverage and growth. She also
mentions that the fragile land composition of these mountains makes
them quite vulnerable to the unsustainable usage of the area, such as
mining, dam and road construction and deforestation.
Based an climate and climatic
characteristics of the area five zones ranging from very humid to
partially dry areas have been recognized, each with a variety of micro
She ends the chapter by talking
about the hydrology of region and how the watersheds are sources of
more than 130 large and small rivers and how the deforestation of
these watersheds will bring about landslides and floods causing severs
damages and loss of many lives.
this chapter the author's main concern is the diminishing surface area
of the forests in the three provinces of
and she uses charts, tables and satellite photographs to prove her
point. She points to the major discrepancies between the (F.A.O) Food
and Agricultural Organization's figures and those of Iranian Forestry
and Natural Resources Organization.
Large- scale deforestation since 1990
has caused many floods during the last decade. Many non- governmental
organizations and scientific bodies have demanded that the true
surface area of North-Forests and its boundaries be openly and
publicly announced. A demand that has remained unheeded as yet. But
even according to the latest government statistics inclusive of green
vegetation , newly planted trees and age old ancient trees, the
surface area of northern forests of Iran
is .87% or less than 1% of the country ™s total surface area .
Putting aside the dispute over figures , she ends the chapter by
saying that upon looking at the increased numbers of floods, jumping
from 17 in 1950's to 250 in 1990's and by comparing the existing
panorama of forests as shown in satellite photos with what had existed
before, strongly reveals the drastic reduction of North Forests' area.
to now more than 130 species of north
trees have been identified. Some of the species and plant
conglomerates are relics, some endemic and some semi-endemic to
Hircanian forests of northern Iran. They are extremely valued as
sources of sustaining the forest's echo-system and its diversity of
Out of 130 species the following 20
are described along with presentation of beautiful color pictures :
Campestre -Parrotia persica -Zelkova
(Quercus atropatana )
(Quercus castaneifolia )-
Alnus glutinosa -Fagus
Orientalis -Cupressus -Taxus
baccata -Thuja orientalis-Populus
-Acer Cappadocium -
fraxinifolia - Gleilitshia caspica-Carpinus
Ulmus glabra -Tilia
begonifolia -Fraxinus excelsor
relic and endemic trees of northern forests of Iran are on the verge
of extinction and author attempts to draw attention of interested
scientists to fragile existence of these species in the hope of saving
them or at least earning them their due international recognition as
valuable genetic banks.
author points to the fourteen most valued and beneficial
characteristic of North Forest. Being the remnant of wet Hircanian
forests dating back to 30 million years ago, they are refuge to the
limited species of plants that belong to tertiary era, recognized by
UNESCO as genetic bank for the species unique to wet Hircanian
Being the largest water table in
Northern Iran, they play a vital role in conserving the ground
waters. They absorb and save water 44 times more than a normal sized
dam in a year and reduce the earth erosion to 1/3 of erosion in
They protect and preserve 12
internationally recognized wetlands, six of which are considered to be
birds habitat , thus earning them double recognition. They act as
natural regulator of climate and also act as natural preserver of land
against erosion, land -slides, floods and droughts.
Chapter 5 is by far the most
extensive chapters of the book where the destructive factors
contributing to deforestation are discussed. The Forestry and Natural
Resource Organization of Iran classifies such factors as forest
dwelling , cattle raising, government gas and oil projects and
construction of roads and dams as biotic factors, while such
phenomenon as earthquakes, flood , landslides and fires are considered
to be non- biotic factors.
Author considers these factors as
secondary ones and expresses her own views by presenting the main
contributing factors to deforestation in a comprehensive chart that
she considers it to be the only chart of its kind ever proposed by a
non- governmental organization in
that could be useful to many government organizations.
to this chart the two major contributing factors to destruction of
of wholesome holistic policies of forest- management on the national
and local levels.
lack of a comprehensive zoning plan based on a policy of
echo-economy and sustainable development schemes.
the chart these two major factors lead to four lower level destructive
foresting plans as a facade to disguise the advancement of "business
as usual" and the provision of raw material for wood and paper
non-comprehensive, segmental, short-term foresting plans that leads to
unsustainable foresting and development.
of comprehensive laws proportionate to the existing environmental
threats facing the forests and their surroundings.
of proper investment policies for the protection and preservation of
the chart, each of these four categories are broken down to 6-7
detailed factors such as vast scale profiteering on private and
government level, a changing concept toward the usage of forests,
construction of government projects such as roads and dams, pollution
of forests and its surroundings and last but not least missing the
opportunity to develop an environmentally sound and sustainable plan
for the preservation of forests.
Throughout the rest of the chapters
she describes these factors and documents her descriptions by the use
of charts, tables and revealing pictures.
the basis of the major and lower level destructive factors discussed
in chapter5, author writes about the disastrous outcomes of
deforestation. Under the physical outcomes of deforestation, she uses
charts, tables and pictures to show how the process of deforestation
in the three northern provinces of Iran has reduced the amount of
rainfall during the last twenty years, while the occurrence of floods
has increased by twenty times adding to the increased occurrence
of land slides, land-creeping and earth erosions, causing the loss of
hundreds of lives and extensive damages. In regard with damaging
effects of deforestation on the biosphere of forests she writes that
many different plants and animal species are either extinct or
threatened to become extinct due to the unfavorable conditions of
their habitat. The extinction of each of these species that
contributes to the procreation of life and its cycles in the forests
will induce the growth of alien species, emergence of known and
unknown disease that will reduces the bio-diversity of forests.
ends the chapter by suggesting that the only way to protect and
preserve the North Forests of
and to redress the damages of mismanagement and mishandling of these
national treasures, located in a dry and semi -dry land, is to declare
them as a "protected forests ". Any misuse or change in the
utilization of these forests must be banned, followed by
implementing and proposing a comprehensive plan inclusive of local
inhabitants such as forest- dweller and farmers in order to benefit
from their valuable knowledge and experiences.
A partial protective plan that uses cliché
like statements quite incongruous with the present potentials of
forests only favors the continuation of status -quo, harming forests
and people. The policy and decision makers should act responsibly and
know that the decisions made today play crucial role in creating the
conditions and harsh realities of tomorrow
Here she has included two
short articles. In the first she questions the construction of a dam
(Mayjaran) right in the heart of North Forests, where the forest
concentration is %90. She doubts the soundness of the preliminary
studies made in regard with sustainability issues such as preservation
of forest's echo- system and the cost effectiveness of such projects.
In the second article she criticizes the government plans for
protection and preservation of forests and considers them to be
out-dated by present standards. Again in a simple chart she plainly
shows how and why the government plans for the preservation of forests
defeat their own purposes. The final chart reads as : Having a
profiteering outlook toward North Forests paves the way for the
continuation of profiteering process that encourages the replacement
of age-old trees with young saplings which in turn leads to the
formation and growth of "Wood plantation", the exact opposites of the
age- old, priceless forests. In truth such plans only promote and
defend the rights of profiteers to plunder the forests in the years to
Covering the time span of
about 40 years, from 1961-2001, the 53 sources that author refers to
provide a list of valuable reference books to students and
A glossary of technical terms is also
provided by author to help the common reader toward a better
understanding of the issues of the book.
Author's final statement is printed on the back
cover of the book. She emphasizes that in the dry and semi-land land
of Iran the only possible way to preserve such nature's gift as North
Forests and to rectify the damages inflicted upon them through
mismanagement is to declare them as Protected Forests , followed by
proposing and implementing a viable plan based on people
participation. Reverting to the out-dated plans and implementing them
is and will be totally useless. It devastates our country and harms
our fellow countrymen and women for generations to come.
a non government environmental organization, believe that because Iran
is signatory to the Convention For Protection Of The World Cultural
And Natural Heritage since 1975, the ancient Hirconian North Forests
of Iran should be recognized as world heritage. We believe that at
least 3 required characteristics that must be met to fulfill such
recognition are presented and discussed in the above- mentioned book.
1-The forests are unique in view of
their geological and physical formations with a variety of magnificent
landscaping of high esthetic values.
trees and plant species that are rare and relic to these forests ,
have high scientific values and are recognized by
scientists as genetic banks.
forests, with all theirs natural beauties and scientific worth are on
the verge of extinction because of systematic deforestation. As
habitat to ag-old trees and plant species their preservation is an
publishing of the above- mentioned book in English or any other
languages has not yet been possible, due to lack of proper funding. We
take the opportunity to ask interested international organizations,
groups or individuals to help us in its translation and publication.
If interested please contact us:
Sorouri : Mahsin9@yahoo.com
Nasrindokht Khatibi :