The director of the Environment Protection Organization has come under fire in recent days for what is perceived to be her agency’s failure to fulfill its responsibility when it comes to tackling the problem of particulates in southern and western provinces. The protest has also found its way into social networking sites.
On February 15, Sharq daily published an interview with the environment chief in which she fired back at her critics. The following is a partial translation of the interview:
You think the barrage of criticism coming your way is politically motivated?
I think most of what these individuals raise is sentimental and those who raise them have an ax to grind. Everyone knows that people of Khuzestan have gone through a lot of late. It is below politicians to make political gains of the plight of some of our fellow citizens.
It is not just Khuzestan. Other provinces such as Ilam and Sistan and Baluchestan are grappling with similar problems. These problems are not unique to Iran. Dust storms have recently swept areas from West Africa to the Middle East including Egypt, Palestinian territories, Lebanon, etc.
Am I to blame too for what has happened in Cairo and West Africa? Those who seek to find fault don’t care where the blame lies. At the end of the day, they put the blame at our door.
How much budget has been envisioned to fight the problem of dust storms in next year’s spending package?
That is a good question. A number of the very same MPs who are going out of their way to target the Environment Protection Organization these days,eliminated all the budget the government has allocated to the fight against air pollution in parliament just three days before the first storm hit southwestern Iran. They sought to reallocate the same budget to what they favor.
How much exactly did the government seek to allocate to the problem?
What they did drew an angry response from my agency. Part of the budget – around $20 million – that came from the tariffs government places on polluting industries was supposed to be allocated to monitoring and fighting dust storms. Specifically we wanted around $18 million to revive lagoons which was eliminated from the budget bill. What is ironic is that the same people who are criticizing me and my department have been behind efforts to remove the envisioned budget.