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EghtesadOnline: With the winter fast approaching and air pollution levels peaking in Tehran, the low emission zone (LEZ) scheme introduced by the municipality is on the cusp of becoming a tad stricter in the hope of making life slightly more bearable in the sprawling capital which has struggled with suffocating air pollution for decades.

Ratified in August 2015 by the High Council for Coordination of Urban Traffic, the LEZ scheme is aimed at banning highly polluting vehicles from entering Tehran in three phases.

The first phase, which took effect in October 2016 and is still underway, only involves controlling the vehicles’ technical inspections in the restricted areas. Those violating the rules are fined 500,000 rials ($3.44) per day, ISNA reported.

The restricted zone is an 80-square-kilometer area in central parts of the capital in which only public transportation vehicles and some other cars with special permits are permitted to enter during working hours. The second phase will expand the restricted zone to cover the entire city, according to Financial Tribune.

LEZ compels owners of highly polluting cars to choose an alternative mode of transport or decide to renovate or dump their vehicles.

Seemingly, the first phase was only meant to encourage car owners to refer to the inspection centers to prepare the ground for the second foray against air-polluters.

According to Mohsen Pour Seyed Aqaei, managing director of Transportation and Traffic Organization of Tehran Municipality, the new phase which should start by early November will cover a much wider area and restrict cars, buses, and heavy vehicles lacking technical inspection stickers from entering the overcrowded city.

“The plan is to target carbureted motorcycles, diesel cars without filters and other gas guzzlers -- the three main sources of particulate matters smaller than 2.5 micrometers,” the TM official said.

The particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in width. The small size particulates are ranked as the sixth major risk factor for premature death globally, leading to heart disease and stroke, lung cancer and respiratory infections.

Aqaei added that all vehicles with carbureted engines will be added to the blacklist of the LEZ scheme in the third phase. He did not specify the exact date for the implementation of the final phase.

The LEZ scheme largely works with surveillance cameras installed throughout the city capturing vehicles and two-wheelers without technical inspection. Traffic Police are also tapped for in-field monitoring as a helping hand to the plan.

Experts say the scheme is not envisaged to help ease traffic congestion and is a long-term plan to reduce air pollution. However, Aqaei is of the opinion that the scheme can also address the issue of the near-permanent clogged roads. 

“LEZ could well replace the old and deficient plans currently underway in Tehran, including the odd-even scheme according to which private vehicles are only allowed to drive in the city on alternate days, based on the odd or even last digit of the license plates.”


Tehran air pollution LEZ Low Emission Zone Polluting Cars municipality