EghtesadOnline: The workgroup to help reduce Tehran’s air pollution met at the weekend and came up with some unsettling numbers. For instance, it said 2,529 old and dilapidated cars built three decades ago ply the overcrowded roads of the capital everyday doing a terrible job in contributing to the worsening air pollution.
During the meeting, a representative from Tehran Municipality delivered a report drawing attention to the status of clunkers in the sprawling capital which has expanded in all four directions over the past half century.
According to the Tehran Governorate website, currently, 2,529 cars over 30 years old and 3,200 dilapidated buses use the capital’s permanently clogged roads.
With thousands of premature pollution-related deaths every year, Iran is among the top five countries in terms of air pollution mortality. The latest statistics from Ministry of Health indicate that during the previous fiscal that ended in March 2017, close to 12,798 pollution-related deaths were recorded in the country with one-third of the number occurring in Tehran, Financial Tribune reported.
Majid Nasrollahnejad, head of Tehran Provincial Department of Road Maintenance and Transportation says dilapidated vehicles are one of the prime sources of air pollution and the toxic air.
“There are 2,400 vehicles over 50 years old across the country which must be removed from the roads.” He said these old and ageing vehicles will be banned in Tehran from March.
Dilapidated cars and buses are not alone in poisoning Tehran’s air. Motorcycles, which have often been criticized for being a nuisance, also contribute to the toxic air that for years has closed down schools and offices at irregular intervals and filled hospital beds.
Some 2.5 million carburetor-equipped motorcycles ply Tehran’s roads making a bad situation worse for both commuters and pedestrians. Since they are not equipped with catalyst converters and release toxic fumes directly into the environment, the amount of fumes each of the motorbike spews into the air equals that of eight vehicles with Euro 3 emission standards. The added problem is that the two-wheelers are fuel-intensive.
As if this was not enough, the outdated motorbikes are the number one culprits in creating noise pollution. It is estimated that in Tehran, motorbikes have a 25% contribution to air pollution and cause almost half of the noise pollution in and around the megacity of 12 million people.
After officials realized closing schools on unhealthy days was not be enough to tackle air pollution, new measures have been proposed, including a renovation scheme.
One calls for dilapidated and polluting cars and those lacking the mandatory technical inspection certificates to be banned from entering Tehran. However, such regulations are yet to be implemented meaningfully. Moreover, while air pollution was restricted to Tehran up until the recent past, today most major cities are grappling with the suffocation while nothing strong and effective has been done by those in charge to alleviate the problem.
In a bid to curb air pollution in cities, the government in collaboration with local banks and carmakers introduced a taxi renovation scheme in 2016 it calls ‘Nosazi’ meaning renovation.
The plan (retiring old taxis to the junkyard in exchange for a new vehicle) has been successful to some extent but many taxi drivers say they cannot afford the new cars despite the bank loan.
Furthermore, the cars delivered through the scheme are limited to few models produced by local carmakers which have often been censured for blatantly flouting even the minimum standards, disregarding safety rules, poor mileage and injecting poison into the air – a disturbing paradox because the new vehicles are supposed to be environmentally-friendly.
Tehran Municipality estimates that 19 million daily trips are made in the capital on any working day. It is often said that the metropolis lacks enough and efficient public transport and cannot handle the heavy load to which there is no end in sight.
For all practical purposes, Tehran has become one big parking lot and things are expected to get much worse before they get better. More than four million vehicles commute on Tehran’s roads, a figure that according to a former traffic deputy at Tehran Municipality is eight times over and above nominal capacity.
“Tehran roads and freeways can hardly handle more than 750,000 vehicles. This is while, every day more than four million cars ply the clogged roads,” ISNA quoted Maziar Hosseini as saying.
True, many freeways, flyovers and underpasses have been built since the early 1990s and the subway system has expanded to many parts of Tehran. But as those in charge of urban management concur, all this is good but not enough.
Tehran Metro in its latest report said 3.8 million commuters use the subway on a daily basis which is about 20% of the 19 million trips conducted in the city.
Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi who, due to his blunt criticism of incompetence and negligence of former and current policymakers, has earned public respect, says that improving the conditions will take time and in short, there is no magic wand for ending the air pollution and traffic dilemma.
Residents are looking up to Najafi and his men to see whether he can turn things around and offer them some succor as mismanagement, corruption and nepotism has done colossal, and possibly irreversible, harm to the once green and appealing city that became Iran’s capital more than two centuries ago.