EghtesadOnline: To put a cap on the increasing air pollution in Iranian megacities, Karaj and Isfahan, urban managers have once again employed restrictive traffic rules, the efficiency of which has been repeatedly questioned.
With the soaring density of air pollutants, an emergency situation has been announced in Karaj, Alborz Province.
Gholamali Sharq, traffic police chief of Karaj, says smog-inducing vehicles have been banned in the city, Financial Tribune reported.
"The traffic in the city is monitored throughout the year. However, with the increasing density of toxic emissions that have deteriorated these days, traffic rules have become stricter to alleviate air pollution," Sharq told IRNA.
“The traffic police inspectors deployed along Karaj's main roads are tasked with identifying vehicles lacking the mandatory technical inspection documents or labels. Motorists found in breach are being fined.”
The traffic police chief of Karaj appealed to drivers to get their vehicles checked at the designated inspection centers set up in the city and ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy.
There are eight technical inspection centers in Karaj, which city has expanded beyond imagination over the past quarter century.
Sharq invited citizens to cut the unnecessary use of private vehicles and to get their cars checked for technical flaws to avoid fines.
For enforcing the regulations, the traffic police rely on roadside random tests and monitoring in Karaj.
According to authorities, the number of surveillance cameras is low and these cameras cannot detect all violations.
Fardin Hakimi, director of the provincial Department of Environment, on Saturday, said the air quality index in Karaj crossed the threshold of "unhealthy" status for the children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, known as sensitive.
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).
Hakimi said the air pollution is expected to persist in the metropolis in the next few days.
Besides Karaj, officials in Isfahan have raised concerns over the health hazards of toxic particles in the air, calling on decision-makers to devise a workable solution.
With the soaring density of air pollutants, an emergency situation has been announced in Karaj, Alborz Province during a meeting on Thursday.
Hojjatollah Gholami, a deputy head at Isfahan Governorate, suggested using the "odd-even" traffic plan when AQI hits emergency levels.
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.
"Increasing the number of and streamlining traffic surveillance cameras are high on the agenda," Gholami said.
“Upgrading the cameras approximately requires 210 billion rials [$1.5 million], which will be financed by Isfahan Municipality and Isfahan Disaster Management Organization in a phased manner.”
In October 2019, the government allocated 400 billion rials ($2.9 million) to curb the growing air pollution and smog in Isfahan.
According to Mansour Shisheh-Foroush, the head of Isfahan's DMO, protracted talks have been held with urban managers and state administrators over the deteriorating air quality in the megacity, especially during the cold months of the year.
"As a result, remedial policies have been devised and communicated to executive units that are expected to shortly implement them after receiving the funds," he added.
Shisheh-Foroush stressed that the city needs prompt action for curbing air pollution.
Air quality control stations in Isfahan predict and report emergency air pollution conditions in advance and help DMO control the critical situation.
Experts mostly blame the situation on mismanagement, lack of an integrated air pollution reduction scheme, polluting industrial activities and smog-inducing and gas-guzzling vehicles.
Isfahan Province is one of the main industrial hubs of Iran. For long, environmentalists have complained that factories in and around the province largely disregard environmental standards.
Shisheh-Foroush noted that highly-polluting industrial factories are required to limit their operations days with high pollution.
Experts have repeatedly emphasized that burning fossil fuels, factories operating within city limits, the excessive use of private cars and the growing number of low-quality motorcycles are the main causes of air pollution.
Over the past few decades, mayor after mayor has failed to address the issue effectively, making excuses for their inefficiency.
The air pollution problem is not limited to one or two cities and almost all big Iranian cities have a history of fighting air pollution, but to no avail.
Notorious for smog-blanketed skies, Tehran has been struggling with poor air quality for over two decades and none of the remedial measures, from public training to setting traffic schemes, has so far delivered.
Since the beginning of fall this year, air quality in the capital has hit emergency levels several times, raising serious concerns among environmentalists and the general public. However, Tehran’s Mayor Pirouz Hanachi wistfully said the only way out of the current smog crisis facing the megacity is to hope for the helping hand of Nature.
Air quality is no better in other big cities like the holy city of Mashhad in Khorasan Razavi Province, Arak in Markazi Province, Tabriz in East Azarbaijan Province and Fars in Shiraz Province.
In all Iranian metropolises, people have no choice but to breathe the pollutants, as the officialdom have failed to find an effective and sustainable solution to the worsening problem.