EghtesadOnline: Toxic air pollution in Iranian metropolises is twice as lethal as road crashes, as it annually claims over 30,000 lives, director of the Department of Environment said.
Speaking during a meeting in Tehran on Sunday, Isa Kalantari said, “Annually, over 16,000 people lose their lives in fatal road crashes, while air pollution claims over 30,000 innocent lives. Addressing the alarmingly high rate should be high on state agencies’ agenda."
The DOE chief noted that rising population and consumerism has taken a harsh toll on the environment, ISNA reported.
“None of our industries and activities is eco-friendly. The government had numerous promising plans for restoring the environment, some of which progressed to some extent. Unfortunately, they were mostly left incomplete due to limitations faced by the country, because of US sanctions," Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
Kalantari also said the restoration of old commercial vehicles and public transportation fleet, as well as the phasing out of carbureted-engine motorcycles were among the government's plans nipped in the bud, because amid the current economic hardships, financial resources should primarily be spent on supplying essential goods.
"Currently, 81% of motorcycles are more than ready to be scrapped and half of the heavy-duty vehicles dates back to WWII," he said, adding that breathing clean fresh air is only a dream until these issues are resolved.
Air pollution of any kind has been recognized as the fourth leading cause of premature deaths worldwide.
Scientific studies show that among air pollutants, particulate matters, especially PM2.5, are the most harmful due to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstreams unfiltered, causing heart attacks, respiratory disease and premature death.
In December 2019, when AQI hit the emergency level for several consecutive days, Tehran Emergency Center reported that the persistent toxic pollution in the capital city forced over 8,400 respiratory and cardiovascular patients to approach medical emergency centers in Tehran.
DOE had earlier announced that air pollution annually costs Tehran residents $2.6 billion, which imply that air pollution inflicts a loss of $300 on each resident.
Four-Week AQI Review
Charts published by Tehran Air Quality Control Company website, Airnow.tehran.ir, show that during four weeks to Feb. 17, Tehran’s residents suffering from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, children, pregnant women and the elderly were asked to cut their outdoor exposure in seven days.
This was because Air Quality Index stood between 101 and 150, indicating that air quality was unhealthy for sensitive groups.
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).
TAQCC data show that during the period, "moderate" status was the most prevailing air condition, as the index hovered between 51 and 100 on 18 days.
AQI fell below 50, showing "good" air quality for only two days.
Analyses illustrate that the pollutant responsible for the toxic index recorded in the period was PM2.5 (atmospheric particulate matters that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers).
Tehran’s citizens and urban managers have been grappling with air pollution for a long time nor.
Over the past few decades, even the long succession of mayors has failed to address the issue effectively, as they make excuses for their inefficiency and blame their predecessors for the current state of affairs.
Earlier in November 2019 when the capital city was suffocating under a thick smog blanket, Tehran’s Mayor Pirouz Hanachi had wistfully said the only way out of the current pollution 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 behind the air pollution.
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 people to let go of their convenient private cars and use the ailing public transport services.
Millions of people work and live in Tehran. They all need decent transportation. However, government and municipality coffers are lacking the funds needed to upgrade or expand public transportation services.
They also do not have the means to extend loans to owners of dilapidated vehicles for replacing them with more efficient vehicles.
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.