EghtesadOnline: It is no secret that Tehran, home to 12 million people, is plagued by social and environmental problems stemming from wholesale migration and gross urban mismanagement.
Outgoing mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who was glued to the mayoral seat for 12 years, is an extremely unpopular figure with the vast majority of Tehran residents for his total disregard for the environment, issuing construction permits for skyscrapers without diligence and based on nepotism, allowing the demolition of historical houses, turning a blind eye to corruption in the municipality and using his position for political gain, though he failed tremendously in the last one, as evidenced by his three failed presidential campaigns.
“Tehran City Council will prepare a comprehensive report on the current condition of the city within three months after the new council convenes its first session (August 23) and the report will be made public,” said Morteza Alviri, a member of the elected Tehran City Council and former mayor of the sprawling capital from 1999 to 2001.
“We doubt the validity of figures reported by Qalibaf and his deputies, and believe their claims must be verified,” he told ISNA in an interview on Monday. The outgoing mayor has often talked about his managerial skills and the perceived efficiency of his senior managers that in fact hurled Tehran to the present breaking point. His claims have often been dismissed by the millions who “survive” in the capital, economic experts, environmentalists and social scientists, Financial Tribune reported.
He says the new mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, has presented a workable roadmap to improve living conditions in the capital that keeps on expanding in all four directions thanks to the likes of Qalibaf, his close aides and vested interests.
Alviri, a former diplomat and lawmaker, pointed to the TM’s 235 trillion rials ($6.1 billion) unpaid debt to the government, the army of contactors and banks. From what is known the “municipality also has many unfinished projects and 300 trillion rials ($7.9 billion) are needed only to complete these pending projects,” he said of the monumental dysfunction and corruption in the municipality under Qalibaf’s watch.
Another problem at the municipality is that it employs four times more people than would be necessary, putting unwanted financial and administrative strain on national coffers.
“During my tenure (as Tehran mayor), there were 16,000 people working for the TM. Now the number is 63,500,” the councilor said.
Aside from the waste of public money, Alviri said the conditions have led to a significant decline in productivity.
“One of the new mayor’s biggest challenges will be to address the overstaffing problem,” the councilor said, echoing demands of economic and social experts across the political spectrum that the new local government must start with accountability, meritocracy and downsizing.
He concurred that turning things around will be a time-consuming process and that the problems must be solved gradually.
“It’s time to hire people based on merit,” the elected official told the news agency.
Tehran’s Traffic Problem
Alviri noted that improving public transport should top the new mayor’s agenda. Clogged roads and highways in and around Tehran are a constant and painful reminder of how not to do things and the extent to which urban management has failed in the ever-expanding capital.
In January Mohammad Mahdi Tondgouyan, spokesman for the High Commission for Studying Architecture and Urban Plans of the TCC said that the city’s highway network expansion was completed 10 years ahead of the comprehensive urban development plan. “Tehran Municipality has not paid attention to the important fact that building more roads lead to more traffic if it doesn’t keep pace with public transport expansion,” he said.
Complaining about the monstrous expansion of the capital and the massive pressure on its water, gas, road, transport…networks, the councilor said the problem of traffic congestion is not due to the construction of Niyaesh Tunnel (opened in February 2013) or Sadr Two-Level Highway (December 2013) – both in north Tehran.
“The main issue is the unwise prioritization of urban projects.”