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People and trees, the same story, the world over. It almost always comes down to some sort of neighbour dispute, and in this particular case the Ranger thinks that he has identified what must surely be the biggest ever neighbour dispute over trees. From Iran Daily 16 February 2006:
Last week’s removal of a large number of trees in Lavizan Forest Park of Tehran caused a barrage of criticism to rain down on Tehran Municipality… a host of nature lovers and environment support NGOs have been asking why the Parks and Green Areas Organization, which is in charge of conserving greeneries of the megacity, should give the green light to such clearing. About 8,000 pine trees were cut down a week ago in an attempt to flatten the southern section of the Lavizan Forest Park for construction of a highway in east of the capital.
Sounds a little like the Newbury bypass.
Oddly enough, the Daily Telegraph has a different take on the same story several weeks later on 6th March 2006:
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have taken the extraordinary step of cutting down thousands of trees in Tehran to prevent United Nations inspectors from finding traces of enriched uranium from a top-secret nuclear plant… According to western intelligence sources, more than 7,000 trees which may have contained incriminating nuclear traces have been lost in a popular parkland area in the city near the Lavizan atomic research centre.
The Ranger congratulates those western intelligence sources on being able to read the ‘Iran Daily’ website. It’s somehow comforting to know that people in Iran reacted just as people in this country would have. People love trees, and they hate to see them felled. But big projects often sweep aside such concerns. It’s almost certain that the bulldozer drivers who cleared up the fallen trees and grubbed out the stumps would have stood about chatting at the end of the day and said something like “It’s such a shame all these trees have to go… I love trees, myself”. Maybe even the foremen and the engineers in charge thought the same thing – although they’d have been less likely to say it. But still the trees went. This seems to be the pattern of such projects in all cases, and there is no reason to imagine that it was any different in Tehran or Tewksbury.
It is because of this experience of tree-destruction by gung-ho developments that the Ranger is cynical about the Telegraph’s take on this story, especially the assertion that the Revolutionary Guards were out there with their chainsaws. There seems to be a range of tales as to what really happened, with the Telegraph saying that “The official explanation for the destruction of the trees was to create a national park.”, Iran Daily saying it was “for construction of a highway” and Iran News, yet another source, saying that “felling of Lavizan’s trees, which resumed on Wednesday in the presence of deputy Tehran mayor, Ahmad Donya-Mali, was halted by a court order”. What is not in doubt is that a good few trees were felled, probably more than 7000, and many people in Iran were very cross about it and made these feelings abundantly clear. Just as we would have. The Ranger rejects the conspiracy theory. In any case, it would be more or less impossible to remove all evidence of organic life from the soil surrounding this former nuclear facility. Felling trees would have no benefit if a cover-up were indeed the object. The simplest explanation is that a big engineering project went ahead in the way such projects always do. We’ve seen it before and we will no doubt see it again. Perhaps before they get too excited about this ‘cleansing’, the IAEA should recruit a few arboriculturalists to tell them the way it is.