Iranian environmentalists have voiced anger over the destruction of oak seedlings after a festival was held in Golestan province’s Alang-Dareh forest on December 1.
Iranian media focused on the stunning colors and vibrant scenery of the sixth Gorgan Autumn of a Thousand Colors festival. But activists say hundreds of small oak seedlings planted several years ago to help protect the forest were destroyed during the festivities.
A citizen journalist going by the name Ziba Mansouri has presented her account of the damage, and provided video evidence to IranWire.
Gorgan city council members, Iranian cultural heritage organization directors and environment agency officials have routinely attended the festival, which has become a tourist attraction for the city, during its six-year run.Artists and singers are invited to present their work and perform, and a range of sporting events are also on offer. The festival also offers booths exhibiting everything from local handicrafts to food andcooking demonstrations.
"On Wednesday, December 1, 2021, about 4,000 people attended the festival,” says activist Nasim, one of several people to express dismay and anger that no efforts were made to protect the unique forest environment. “People trampled on the hundreds of oak trees planted by environmental activists in the heart of this forest two years ago, destroying them."
Nasim also said festival-goers had left the forest strewn with litter and garbage. She says environmentalists were particularly vocal when plans to build cable cars in the forest surfaced. But they have not been listened to, and plans to incorporate the cable cars into the festival have been presented as an investment opportunity.
Officials’ Inept Efforts Lead to Catastrophe
The activist described the environmental activists’ protests during the event. ”Addressing the organizers of the ceremony, Mr. Zahir Tehrani spoke about environmental protection, and reminded them that by bringing thousands of people to walk across oak saplings, they were destroying the environment and that forest."
Another environmental activist from Gorgan also held festival officials responsible for the destruction. "Such managers are really a disgrace to the people of Gorgan and Golestan province. We now urge the city and provincial authorities not to take any action to protect the environment and wildlife — because anything they do will lead to a new catastrophe."
The environmental activists complained to Gorgan City Council, the mayor and the head of the Gorgan Cultural Heritage Office, but say they have not yet received a suitable response. Golestan province authorities tend to ignore the pleas of environmental activists, but when they don't, they respond with force, summoning activists to report to local security agencies.
Alang-Dareh forest is one of the few remaining hyrcanian forests —referring to the area southeast of the Caspian Sea — in Iran, and is estimated to be about 60 million years old. Alang-Dareh Forest Park, with an area of 185 km, is one of Iran’s seven key tourist sites. The forest’s temperature is typically at least 10 degrees cooler than urban areas. At the foot of the forest sit several rivers and springs, as well as ironwood, hornbeam, alder, maple, oak, willow, milkweed and sage trees and bushes.
As the Thousand Colors Autumn Festival came to a close, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported on the plans to build a cable car system in the forest, quoting Ali Akbar Basirnia, the head of the Tourism and Historical Urban Fabric Commission of the Islamic Council of Gorgan. ”In addition to holding the festival, a conference on investment opportunities in the field of urban management was held, in which investment packages including cable cars and amusement parks, hotels, carousels, and indoor halls were presented to investors,” he said.
This article was written by a citizen journalist in Gorgan under a pseudonym.