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EghtesadOnline: As air pollution moves from bad to worse in most mega cities, officials and relevant organizations keep evading their responsibility and tightly embrace the blame game.

Schools have again closed down in several cities for days, hospitals are full with patients suffering from respiratory conditions, and tiny tots, the elderly and the sick have been told to stay at home because the air quality is very bad. 

Some climatologists have recommended Tehran residents to just get out of the metropolis and go to the rural areas if they can because “the pollution problem could continue well into February.”

There are experts and motorists who insist the quality of fuel, among other things, is one major contributor to the toxic air that has been cutting shorts innocent lives for years, according to Financial Tribune.

The National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) rushed to claim this week that the toxic air “has nothing to do with the quality of gasoline.”

Referring to data from the Tehran Air Quality Control Company, NIOPDC said the index for sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is produced by burning fuel, has always hovered around 15 that is much less than the standard level of 50. It puts the blame on heavy vehicles (trucks and public buses) that run on diesel. 

Particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) is the main culprit contributing to the air pollution in industrial cities and is produced due to incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, especially diesel, the company said.

NIOPDC officials, including the CEO Alireza Sadeqabadi, insist that the quality of their products is regularly monitored by the Iran National Standards Organization.

Sadeqabadi believes that no matter how high the quality of the fuel, so long as it is burns in old and substandard engines the net result will be high levels of toxic fumes.

“Close to 115 million liter of gasoline is produced in seven refineries of which 80% complies with Euro 4 emission standards. However, incomplete combustion of fuel in low-quality engines manufactured by domestic automakers convert the high quality gas into a pollutant.”

On the same subject, head of air pollution committee at the Ministry of Health, Abbas Shahsavani, opines that toxic emissions released from two-wheelers are five times over and above an average city car as they are not equipped with catalyst converters and release toxic fumes directly into the environment.

From the 4 million motorcycles plying Tehran roads, close to 70% are substandard and not roadworthy. 

“Close to 70% (2.8 million) of the 4 million motorbikes in Tehran is substandard and contribute terribly to the air pollution,” he said, adding that some motorbikes are five times more pollutant than cars.



Clean Air Act

The ministry official argues that full implementation of the Clean Air Act, approved by parliament in 2017, can help ease the pollution crisis.

Law calls for a full ban on buying and selling dilapidated vehicles, but the same law has aroused strong opposition from groups that sand to lose if the restrictions become a norm.

Over 1.5 million old cars and 10 million dilapidated motorbikes plying roads across the country emitting huge amounts of fumes dangerous to health.

Car and motorcycle factories have long been lobbying to suppress the long-delayed environmental regulations (and so far nothing has been able to stop them), he added.

On the other hand, automakers blame NIOPDC for not being able to produce fuel compliant with Euro 5 emission standards.

“Automakers have postponed manufacturing engines that can burn fuel complying with Euro 5 emission standards because refineries cannot produce EU 5 fuel,” Ahmad Nematbakhsh, secretary of the Iran Vehicle Manufacturers Association said.

Moreover, imported cars have to use gasoline that complies with EU 4 emission standards simply because of the lack of EU 5 fuel in Iran. This has created a dilemma for car owners and they need to tune-up their cars because of the low quality of the gasoline.

The growing menace of air pollution seems to be too complex (some say too unimportant) to be addressed by those in charge. So far years of special traffic zones in central city areas, even and odd license plate schemes, stringent rules for annual technical inspection of vehicles, heavy penalties for gas guzzlers and the likes have failed to produce the desired results. 

Add to this the poor quality of public transportation. The number of intra-city public buses is far below demand while the subway is overwhelmed with the increasing number of commuters in Tehran. 

Taxis have a tale of their own and a normal occurrence is the quarrel between passengers and cabbies over the high fares, especially after gasoline prices jumped between 50 to 200% last month. 

In a strange move, the National Iranian Gas Company last week cut gas delivery to cement plants in and around metropolitan cities, namely in Tehran. Instead of limiting their production and working hours, cement companies have started to burn liquefied eco-unfriendly mazut and diesel, exacerbating the pollution crisis. 


Iran air pollution Mega Cities responsibility