EghtesadOnline: The determination of the Department of Environment to fight air pollution notwithstanding, the issue is too complicated to be addressed in the short-term and only by one department, head of the state organization said.
“DoE’s hands are tied because the ever-growing menace of pollution is rooted in highly sensitive issues like not disrupting the job market for millions of people,” Isa Kalantari was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Elaborating on the worsening problem, he said close to 11 million motorcycles ply streets, of which 9.6 million need to be sent to the scrap yard because the amount of toxic fumes each of the motorbikes spew into the air equals that of eight vehicles with Euro 4 emission standards, Financial Tribune reported.
The government has long been struggling to reduce the ballooning budget deficit and is unable to help the (motorbike) owners to replace their vehicle with new two-wheelers.
“When the DoE appeals to responsible bodies (Traffic Police) to stop them, they are indifferent and seem to care little. Their argument is that this (motorbike) is the means with which many people earn a living and depriving of their vehicle will expand the dole queues and inflict harm to the community.”
Studies by sociologists indicate that the main reason for the high number of motorcycles (11 million) is the fact that they have become a convenient means for making a living for many people, especially those on the dole queue.
Because of Tehran’s heavy traffic snarls many commuters who need to get around quickly would rather take a motorcycle instead of a taxi or crowded buses.
According to figures released by the Traffic Police, 70% of motorcyclists use their motorbikes to work for courier service firms to deliver either parcels or food and only 30% for personal transport.
The DoE chief concurred that his government organization has been forced to let automakers manufacture sub-standard vehicles.
“If the domestic car industry is really supposed to uphold international norms, all production lines should be shut in which case at least 1.5 million people will lose their jobs,” he noted.
Iran’s economy is going through unprecedented difficult times due to the US sanctions, mismanagement, persistently changing laws, disconnect with the international markets, lack of oversight and rampant corruption.
Giving an example, Kalantari added that power plants had been obliged to burn natural gas instead of environmentally-damaging liquid fuels (diesel and mazut), which was a very effective measure to curb pollution.
However, after a while the refineries’ mazut output started piling up as they were unable to export the fuel (due to the US sanctions), nor were they allowed to sell it domestically.
“Gradually, refineries faced some formidable challenges as they had to get rid of the fuel or shutdown the refinery,” and (as usual) the quickest way out was to get DoE’s permission to let power stations burn mazut, the result of which was high air pollution in the last four months, he said.
A Vicious Cycle
“The country is caught in a vicious cycle that is very difficult to contain,” the country’s top environmental official, who also is a vice president, said.
According to the official, successive governments have done nothing to improve the quality of the air, especially in mega cities, and expecting the deteriorating situation to change overnight would be naive.
Kalantari went on to say that 87% of minibuses, 81% of motorbikes, 73% buses and 61% of trucks have outlived their usefulness and must be scrapped.
Demanding clean air under such circumstances is not reasonable, he admitted.
Drawing a parallel between water and air, he said millions of dollars have been spent on water projects and that is why the piped water network has been extended to far-flung regions. “The DoE has been deprived of such funds and the result is what we see now.”
As air pollution is moving from bad to worse in most mega cities, relevant organizations keep evading their responsibility and prefer to embrace the blame game.
Schools were closed in several cities for days last November and December and hospitals were full with patients suffering from respiratory conditions.
DoE is of the strong opinion that closing educational centers and imposing strict traffic rules cannot solve the problem, it can only postpone it.