EghtesadOnline: With winter approaching, a blanket of smog is enveloping Tehran. As the mountains in the north gradually vanish in the autumn haze, residents and environmentalists are once again calling for action to curb the air pollution.
Data provided by Tehran Air Quality Control Company on its website airnow.tehran.ir shows that in the month that ended on Nov. 21 for four days the Air Quality Index stood between 101 and 150—marked as “unhealthy for sensitive groups” by the agency.
The agency said during the one month residents of the capital experienced 22 days with ‘moderate’ and four blessing with ‘good’ air quality.
The national Air Quality Index categorizes conditions based on the amount of polluting matters into good (0-50), moderate (51-100), unhealthy for sensitive groups (101-150), unhealthy (151-200), very unhealthy (201-300) and hazardous (301-500), Financial Tribune.
Pollutants measured to determine air quality include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10). The AQI figures are calculated based on the concentration of the pollutants.
Despite the fact that this year the initial days of autumn with their crisp air and clear blue skies made a promising start, the recent polluted days are dashing the people’s hopes for a healthy climate and fresh breath in the cold season.
According to the spokeswoman of Tehran Air Quality Control Company, things simply will not take a turn for the better on their own accord. Just like the environmentalists, she is of the opinion that unless stringent measures are implemented, more days with suffocating pollution should be expected.
Leila Nazari tells Students News Agency, “The density of pollutants is expected to increase in the coming days.”
Every year when the cold season arrives, the mercury dips and pollution is trapped closer to the ground suffocating residents in the ever-expanding metropolis. Scientists call the phenomenon 'temperature inversion'.
Last year in the same season residents in the capital saw much more alarming days with poor air quality. Data show with hardly any days of ‘good’ air condition, the month passed with 23 unhealthy days for sensitive groups and one day with the index standing between 151 and 200 in ‘unhealthy’ status leaving only 6 ‘moderate’ days.
This is while in the first month of Iranian fall which ended on Oct. 22 air quality was significantly better. Passing 28 ‘moderate’ and two ‘good’ days, Tehranis reported the capital’s sky to be pure blue almost every day during the period.
This was also the case in the same period last year with 29 ‘moderate’ days and one with ‘good’ air quality.
Skies in Tehran and other metropolises for long have been blanketed with air pollutants and people have been pleading for effective measures at smog mitigation.
Those in charge have so far produced a variety of schemes to curb air pollution but nothing has worked as Tehran remains one of the most polluted cities in the world where living, commuting and working is a daily challenge.
Introducing strict traffic schemes, rehabilitating the dilapidated public transport fleet and improving the quality of gasoline have been among measures implemented to help curb air pollution.
Air Pollution Reduction Plan
The latest measure proposed by the Tehran Municipality is the Air Pollution Reduction (APR) plan, which is to ban clunkers and dilapidated vehicles from the sprawling capital to improve air quality and make life a bit bearable for the people.
Despite extended delays, the plan will take effect on Nov. 24. The APR was initially announced in summer stating that old vehicles will be banished from Tehran and those who violate the rules will be fined 500,000 rials ($3.9). The scheme was to be implemented on Oct. 24.
Due to mismanagement and inaction of officialdom, the plan which was slated for October has been postponed by the Traffic Police.
The police insisted on the delays claiming that thousands of vehicles and motorists lack the mandatory technical inspection papers and should be given more time to get their vehicles checked and fixed.
Furthermore, the municipality has introduced a plan to provide 7,000 cabbies with low-interest loans to equip their cars with catalytic converters. The devices turn toxic pollutants in exhaust fumes from internal engines into less-toxic pollutants by catalyzing oxidation and reduction reaction.
Over the past two months, Tehran Vehicle Technical Inspection Bureau has been conducting in-field checks of commercial vehicles compliance with emission standards.
According to the bureau chief Navab Hosseini, since mid-September, in collaboration with the Traffic Police, the center has carried out in-field technical inspections of over 1,100 heavy-duty vehicles and buses plying Tehran roads. “Among those tested 33% needed repairs and fixes.”
Hosseini called on the people to report polluting vehicles to the TM through its call center. People can call 1888 and give the vehicles’ number plate to the operator. The process takes a few minutes.
Hopefully, pressure from environmentalists and the return of poor air quality as a sign from the nature demanding effective action will hopefully compel the authorities to take a firm stance and move ahead with more strict pollution mitigation plans.
Experts say the smog can cause fatal asthma attacks, and trigger health difficulties for those with respiratory illnesses and the elderly. Annually, around 12,000 air pollution-related deaths are recorded by the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization, with one-third of the fatalities in the capital. It is hoped that the urban authorities will throw caution to the wind and take steps to relieve the people of the poison in the air and the omnipresent smog that is cutting short innocent lives.