Digging and fencing work has begun in for Miankaleh petrochemical project. April 11, 2022

Digging and fencing work has begun in for Miankaleh petrochemical project.

Controversial Iran Petrochemical Project Continues Despite Legal Order

4/13/2022

Some work on a petrochemical project in northern Iran has continued despite orders from the President and Supreme Court to halt construction, opponents claim.

Campaigners against the 800-trillion-rial ($3 billion) scheme posted videos on social media Tuesday evening claiming to show welding for fencing and other preparations for building the Miankaleh petrochemical plant continuing during hours of darkness after the Supreme Court ordered Tuesday a halt in construction pending an environmental assessment.

The Supreme Court's order to halt the project followed a social-media campaign and a petition to the oil minister and chief of the Department of EnvironmentActivists say the plant will have adverse environmental impacts on the coastal region. Celebrities, including actress Hedieh Tehrani, have backed the campaign, posting photos and banners on their social media pages.

Miankaleh nature reserve in northern Iran.

The site is only a few kilometers from Miankaleh Peninsula in the east of the coastal region of Mazandaran, about 45km from Behshahr. The nearly 70,000-hectare peninsula, which separates the Gorgan Bay from the Caspian Sea, is home to a variety of birds and reptiles, and was designated as an international Unesco biosphere reserve in 1976.

When he inaugurated the project March 11, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said it met environmental requirements, but the following day Ali Salajegjeh, head of the Environment Department, said the department had not authorized the plant’s construction.

75,000 jobs

Salajegheh has said some lawmakers support the plant on the grounds it can create 75,000 jobs. But the lawmakers have not substantiated such a high number. Usually a few hundred people work in a petrochemical plant. He has also argued that wildlife in the Miankaleh lagoon would be threatened by the project’s requirement for water and that the plant would cause pollution.

Wildlife seen several years ago in Miankaleh nature reserve.

The project is owned by Amirabad-e Mazandaran Limited, which according to the official gazette was established less than a year ago by companies outside petrochemicals. Within an usually fast few months, the oil ministry agreed to provide natural gas for the project, which reportedly will produce 400,000 tons of propylene a year.

The official news agency, IRNA, reported Sunday that President Ebrahim Raisi had ordered the project scrapped. Government Spokesman Ali Bahadori-Jahromi said April 5 that the project would not go ahead before being endorsed by the Department of Environment.

Salajegheh has pledged not to surrender to any pressures to endorse the project and the official news agency, IRNA, reported Sunday that President Ebrahim Raisi had ordered the project to be scrapped. Government Spokesman Ali Bahadori-Jahromi also said on April 5 that the project would not be implemented before being endorsed by the Department of Environment.

Critics suspect the company that owns the project of having support from centers of power who are so influential that they can even bypass the President's orders.

"The halt in the construction of Miankaleh petrochemical plant is good news, but experience proves that the halt will be temporary, and contractors will return with even more destructive methods,” Javad Heydarian, a journalist focused on environmental issues tweeted Tuesday. “Those who implement such projects have so much money, power, and influence that they don't [have to] abide by any laws."

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