After two years of discussions, the “Comprehensive Soil bill” aimed at countering soil erosion and pollution in Iran will soon be passed by the Iranian Parliament.
The National Environmental Protection Organization, which was involved in preparing the bill, announced that all of its input was incorporated into the new law. The bill was drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture and was sent to Parliament in 2010. The bill proposes to form the “Soil Protection Guardianship”, administered by the Agriculture Ministry and the Environmental Protection Organization.
The rate of soil erosion in Iran is one of the highest in the world. According to new statistics released by the Iranian Society of Soil Sciences, the rate of soil erosion in Iran is three times the average in Asia and is in first place among developing countries and perhaps in the entire world.
Alireza Fallah, a member of Scientific Research in Water and Soil and secretary of the Iranian Society of Soil Sciences, told the Iranian Agricultural News Agency (IANA) that the new statistics make soil protection doubly important, adding that the new bill proposes the implementation of a plan to protect agricultural soil, prevent soil contamination, increase soil fertility and map the country’s soil.
What is soil erosion?
Soil contains organic and inorganic material as well as living organisms that develop through the decomposition of rocks. Various environmental elements, microorganisms and original minerals interact over time to cover the surface of the earth with soil.
Soil erosion is a reduction in the thickness of the main contributing layer of the soil and the separation and removal of its main elements by some transferring agent. Erosion may happen due to natural phenomena such as storms, hurricanes or floods that move or wash away soil. Erosion leads to a decline in soil fertility and quality, while the washed-away minerals get into waterways, dams and lakes, damaging water sources. Widespread erosion can gradually turn a fertile land into a barren desert.
Meanwhile, human activity is an important factor contributing to soil erosion. The destruction of vegetative cover and inappropriate cultivation practices, especially on slopes, are among the chief factors causing soil erosion. Forests have protected the soil for ages; deforestation perpetrated by humans has left the soil without any protection against floods and other natural phenomena. Statistics show that in the Alborz mountain region, annual erosion is at 13.5 tons per hectare, and the cutting of trees on the northern slopes of the mountains has become the major cause of extensive soil erosion.
Other causes of soil erosion are excessive livestock grazing and inadequate cultivation practices, road-building and mining practices.
In Iran, we must also consider soil contamination alongside soil erosion. Industrial and agricultural activities, urbanization and the inappropriate handling of water and sewage as well as oil spills contribute to soil contamination in Iran. The use of chemical fertilizers, specifically phosphatized fertilizers, the watering of agricultural lands with untreated water as well as the passage of industrial, agricultural and household waste waters into the soil and the burying of trash containing heavy metals all exacerbate concerns over contamination. Other contributing factors include the inadequate handling of hospital waste and the improper disposal of electronic garbage such as computers.
The Comprehensive Soil bill
The new bill, prepared by the government and introduced to Parliament, has five sections. In the third section, any activity causing soil contamination has been prohibited. It has been left to the Environmental Organization to set regulatory standards for pollutants that can be released into the soil, and also to prepare a list of contamination sources, which it will carry out with the assistance of the relevant agencies and other ministries. If polluters do not comply with decontamination demands within a given period, the new legislation allows for security forces to be called in to halt their activities and subject them to penalties.
Those who intentionally pollute the soil can face anywhere from six months to five years in jail. Repeat offenders will face double the jail terms. Unintentional polluters will have to pay for the cleaning processes needed to restore the soil to its condition prior to the pollution.
The new bill also highlights the role of the media in educating the public about soil protection and delegates the Environment Organization to enlist the national broadcaster Seda va Sima and other media to disseminate information and spread the word about protecting soil from pollution and erosion across the country.
[translated from the original in Persian]