Term Paper: Human Activity on the Environment in Iran

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¶ … Human Activity on the Environment in Iran

With a population of 71.4 million, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the most populous country in Central and South Asia and the 16th in the world, at the same time the second largest economy in the region with a Gross Domestic Product of U.S.$110 billion (UNICEF 2005). Iran is also the second largest oil producer among the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC, possessing the second largest gas reserves in the world. Recent reports say that it has transitioned from a traditional rural-based society to a semi-industrialized country but one, which confronts many problems and challenges, mainly high unemployment above 25%, poor distribution of income, and inequality of opportunity. Poverty in Iran was officially set at 18% of the population, which interprets that 6.5 million of its people live below the poverty level. It is listed as among the 15 countries, which are extremely demographically heterogeneous (Marcoux 1996). Iran's population growth is above 3% and approximately 60% of the people live in the rural areas and engage in agriculture and pastoralism, which contribute little to the gross national product (Spooner 1984).

Iran is among the five countries with an incidence of land degradation above the world average, sometimes much higher (Marcoux 1996). Land degradation consists mainly of soil erosion at 25% of the total area of the crops and pastures or wind erosion at 48% of the land under crops and pastures. Sixty percent of Iran is a dry zone, resulting from chemical degradation through salinization, loss of soil fertility and pollution. Salinization has damaged more than half of all agricultural land in Iran. In addition to natural hazards, direct and underlying causes account for land degradation. These are wrong or inappropriate use and management of land and practices, such as deforestation and elimination of natural vegetation, over-use of wood cover for commercial or domestic use, overgrazing and planting uses. Over-cutting of vegetation for timber, fuel wood and similar products in a semi-arid environment is a leading cause of land degradation in Iran.

The end to the damage on land use is not visible at this time. The Iranian population continue to increase at a rapid rate with the health status of the people improving in the last two or three decades with the establishment of public health preventive services, which have significantly reduced maternal mortality and raised life expectancy at birth (UNICEF 2005). Mortality among infants and children under 5 years old has also decreased from 28.6 and 35.6 per 1,000 live births in 2000, compared with 122 per 1,000 and 191 in 1970, respectively. More than 85% of the people now have access to health services and more than 90% of births are attended to by health care experts. Maternal mortality rate has been reported at 37 per 1 ive births; moderate to severe underweight, wasting and stunting at 11%, 5% and 15%, respectively. Likewise, approximately 93% of households could obtain safe drinking water and 73% of sanitary toilet in 2000, respectively. Yet malnutrition has somewhat high because of inadequate income distribution and caring practices or habits, especially in the rural areas (UNICEF).

The Republic put up a Department of Environment in 1971 by virtue of Article 50 of its Constitution, initially aimed at addressing its environmental problems long-range (Energy Information Administration 2002). This Article prohibits or prohibited any activity that would result in pollution or irremediable destruction or damage to the environment. But eight years of war against Iraq, international political isolation, and economic sanctions pushed these environmental goals of its activities and priorities and its long-term goals were translated only into short-term conservation measures, such as the establishment of national parks, national monuments and wildlife refuges (EIA).

As the population increases wildly, Iran fails to address its environmental crises and now faces deforestation and desertification of its arid areas; over-fishing of lakes and rivers; industrial and urban waste; continued destruction of wetlands and reservoirs; and pollution of the Persian and Caspian Seas by spilling chemicals and oils into them (Energy Information Administration 2002). Foremost among its environment problems that coincide or are precipitated or enhanced by population growth is air pollution, especially in the capital city of Tehran. Statistics say that Tehran produces 1.5 million tons of pollutants every year mainly with carbon monoxide from car exhaust. Almost 2 million of Tehran's cars are more than 20 years old with poor fuel efficiency and without… [END OF PREVIEW]

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