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EghtesadOnline: Tehran citizens are forced to squander 20 million hours a day in the overcrowded, traffic-clogged metropolis.

According to Mohammad Darvish, a prominent member of the Iranian Research Institute of Forest and Rangelands, Tehran residents collectively waste 20 million hours a day in the sluggish traffic of the capital.

Darvish says Tehran has the capacity to hold 2.3-2.5 million people, a figure that has long been exceeded by the growing population, reported Mehr News Agency.

“Residents of the city are four times the ideal two million; the number reaches 16.2 million when including the long-distance commuters.”

According to Financial Tribune, the city is faced with a grave crisis, manifesting itself in the congested traffic, stifling pollution and water shortage.

“Quality of life has dwindled in Tehran while divorce, depression, crime and suicide rates are on the rise.”

 Urban Sprawl

When asked how it is possible for a city with a 2.5 million capacity to host 10-16 million people, Darvish replied, “Faced with the population explosion, unfortunately, city planners were only preoccupied with expanding the city and solving Tehran’s water scarcity.” The metropolis has expanded in four directions unchecked. 

The rush to supply Tehran’s water needs has resulted in desertification of several areas around the country.

Furthermore, the city is suffering from air and noise pollution and traffic jams that gobble up the time of citizens.

 Suffocating Air Pollution

The prominent environmental activist says in addition to parting with a huge amount of their time, Tehran citizens see the heavy traffic make a large dent in their livelihood.

He estimates that residents of the metropolis lose 100 trillion rials ($2.3 billion) due to traffic jams. He did not specify in what ways and what time span.

One of the other repercussions of the congestion is the air pollution. On the cost of air pollution, Darvish pointed to the death of 293 people per month due to breathing toxic air.

While concerns for air pollution used to be confined to the capital and to one season, namely winter, in recent years, other major cities such as Tabriz, Mashhad and Isfahan have also been grappling with worsening air quality.

Moreover, winter is no longer the only season when residents of Tehran must be concerned about inhaling a surfeit of toxics. 

During the 13 days of the new Iranian year, which started on March 21 coinciding with the Norouz holidays, Tehran experienced five days of unhealthy air quality, an unprecedented record in 10 years.

The data unsettled environmentalists and the public as Tehran is known for its clean air during Norouz. The figures are interpreted to be early signs of further polluted days in the current year.

 Public Transportation

One of the acclaimed methods to tackle air pollution is expanding the city’s public transportation system, while according to residents and NGOs, the urban transport network of Tehran is inadequate, old and inefficient.

City buses are a cheap method of transportation affordable to the majority; however, the overcrowded vehicles discourage many from choosing them as a means to go around the city.

The same can be said about the subway cars, which are jam-packed with passengers during rush hours, making for a dissatisfactory ride home.

Taxis, which slightly boost a better mode of transportation in the overpopulated metropolis hardly account for 2% of the public transport capacity, and since most cars used by the fleet are dilapidated, generously contributing 18% to the toxic air.

 Promising Steps 

City officials have introduced measures to address the environmental problems of urbanization. 

One of the means is expanding the Tehran subway system through public funding and a 50% rise in its budget. The money will finance construction of lines 6 and 7.

Furthermore, Tehran Municipality has been adding cars to the subway to ease the overcrowded wagons.

Renovation schemes directed at renewing the city’s taxi fleet are underway to mitigate the pollution.

Bike sharing terminals have been set up across the city to encourage bicycles as a mode of transport.

Although the city seems to have taken the right path, efforts must go into full force if they are to outstrip the many complications of urbanization.


Tehran Traffic Tehran citizens