EghtesadOnline: A Tehran councilor has blamed government officials and urban managers for the lack of traction in combating the persistently toxic air pollution that has blighted the city’s residents over the past two weeks.
Speaking at Tehran City Council's Sunday meeting, Mohammad Alikhani slammed their incompetence and inefficiency for failing to give the city’s residents a breath of fresh air, stressing that air pollution has not occurred overnight and cannot be curbed overnight.
“Curbing the problem requires professionalism and persistence. Before blaming the air pollution on Tehran Municipality, the distribution of duty among executive institutions should be considered,” ISNA quoted Alikhani as saying.
"All the organizations involved in monitoring and controlling air quality have failed to fulfill their responsibility in this regard," Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
Referring to the Clean Air Act passed by the parliament on July 16, 2017, the councilor said the act considers nine institutions responsible for controlling air pollution, namely the ministries of interior, oil, roads, energy, industries and health, along with the Department of Environment, the Traffic Police and the Institute of Standards and Industrial Research of Iran.
DOE drew up the act based on an integrated approach to curb air pollution, which tasks the enlisted administrations with specific actions in line with the objective.
"Although Tehran Municipality is not even included in the list, it is always the first institution blamed for the air pollution," he added.
Noting that TM is mainly tasked with expanding and managing public transportation, Alikhani said the municipal bodies are not authorized to control the operation of industrial units in the city, the quality of fuel, the increasing number of dilapidated motorcycles or the standards of domestically-produced vehicles.
While polluting vehicles are largely blamed for air pollution, Tehran Air Quality Control Company maintains that particulate matters, particularly PM2.5, constitute a large proportion of current atmospheric pollution and vehicles only have a meager 2% share in the capital's air pollution.
"Industrial units generate a major part of pollutants and this is where TM has no power to interfere," Alikhani said.
“Things will naturally go wrong when no one accepts their responsibilities. However, I don't mean to imply that TM has done its best."
A report by the local newspaper Aftab-e Yazd quoted a TM public relations official as saying, "Google it!" when asked to elaborate on TM's measures to fight air pollution.
The interesting thing about this search is that Google’s top result is a quote by Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi: "Pray for wind and rain to alleviate air pollution."
Reflecting a tougher attitude toward the matter, the newly-appointed director of TM's Transportation and Traffic Organization, Yousef Hojjat, believes that the purchase of new vehicles should not be as easy as it presently is for the general public.
"Banks should not give loans for buying new private vehicles, unless the livelihood of an applicant depends on having one," he said.
"In order to have clean air, more stringent traffic rules should be employed."
Hojjat noted that the municipality and police should strongly deter dilapidated vehicles from plying the city’s roads.
"Cutting their fuel rations could be a potential solution," he added.
Due to the increasing density of air pollutants, kindergartens and schools of all grades have been ordered to close until Tuesday in several metropolises, including Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, Urmia and Hamedan.
To alleviate the impact of car emission in Tehran, the odd-even traffic plan has also been reimposed since Saturday.
Although discarded for being inefficient, the measure has been undertaken as an additional controlling action.
As per the odd-even rule, cars are allowed to ply the streets on alternate days, depending on the odd and even numbers of the license plate.
Traffic Police has also banned commercial vehicles of all kinds from entering the capital until further notice.
However, although these measures have proved to be a failure, 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.
Over the past few decades, mayor after mayor has failed to address the issue effectively, making excuses for their inefficiency.
Air Quality in Tehran
Iran Meteorological Organization says air pollution is expected to linger over the capital until the weekend.
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, the "moderate" state was recorded on 12 days.
Children, elderly and those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases were warned to limit their outdoor exposure for 15 days with AQI standing between 101 and 150, illustrating "unhealthy" air condition for the group.
The index remained "unhealthy" for all groups over the past three days, as it oscillated 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 measure 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 (particulate matters that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers).
Given the absence of long-term initiatives and the lack of determination to combat air pollution on a war footing, citizens will continue to suffer in the foreseeable future in Iranian metropolises.