EghtesadOnline: Autumn ended on Saturday, but the thick blanket of atmospheric pollution and toxic dust shrouds the skies of the capital city Tehran, once again forcing the shutdown of schools.
Iran Meteorological Organization says air pollution is expected to linger until the weekend unless the helping hand of Nature brings a strong gust of wind to help Tehran’s residents.
According to urban managers, with the increasing density of pollutants in the air, kindergartens and schools of all grades have been ordered to close on Saturday and Sunday, ISNA reported.
According to Mohammad Taqizadeh, a member of Tehran City Council, to alleviate the volume of commutation in the city, the odd-even traffic plan has been reimposed during the two days, Financial Tribune reported.
Although discarded for being inefficient, the measure has been undertaken as an additional controlling action.
As per the odd-even rule, cars would be able to ply the streets on alternate days, depending on the odd and even numbers of the license plate.
Data regularly published by Tehran Air Quality Control Company show that the levels of toxic pollutants in the city's air breached critical levels several times in the month ending Dec. 21.
According to this data, "good" air quality eluded Tehran’s residents, as the Air Quality Index did not dip below 50.
The index categorizes conditions dictated by a measure 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).
During the month-long period, the "moderate" state was recorded in 12 days.
Children, elderly and those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases were warned to limit their outdoor exposure for 15 days with the AQI standing between 101 and 150, illustrating "unhealthy" air condition for the group.
The index reached "unhealthy" for all groups over the past three days, standing between 151 and 200.
Pollutants measured to determine air quality include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10). AQI figures are calculated as per the concentration of pollutants.
Analyses illustrate that the pollutant responsible for the 18 highly polluted days recorded in the period under investigation was PM2.5 (atmospheric particulate matters that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers).
Air pollution has long been an environmental and health nuisance for the citizens and urban managers of Tehran. Over the past few decades, mayor after mayor has failed to address the issue effectively, making excuses for their inefficiency.
Earlier this month, Tehran’s Mayor Pirouz Hanachi had wistfully said the only way out of the current smog crisis facing the megacity is to hope for the helping hand of Nature.
“If the wind were to blow our way, the situation would improve,” he had said.
Hanachi has repeatedly emphasized that the burning of fossil fuels, excessive use of private cars and the growing number of low-quality motorcycles are the main culprits causing air pollution in the megacity.
Urban managers believe that severe trade restrictions resulting from US sanctions have hampered the expansion of Iran’s public transportation fleet. Plans to purchase new buses and add more train wagons to the city's subway network have ground to a halt.
In spite of these failures, the mayor still insists on populist, face-saving moves like participating in bike riding campaigns and taking the subway to work, in hopes of encouraging the public to let go of their convenient private cars and use the ailing pubic services to commute.