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EghtesadOnline: The number of dilapidated vehicles on Tehran's streets has reached 3.5 million and is expected to hit 8 million in four years, if no scrappage is carried out, according to the secretary of the Association for Scrappage and Recycling Centers.

Amir Ahmadi added that the state's Scrappage Scheme has been abandoned for more than three years due to mismanagement and tactlessness, resulting in the closure of over 220 scrappage centers across the country.

As per the scheme, local automakers were required to send one clunker to the junkyard for every car produced with a fuel consumption of more than 8.5 liters per 100 kilometers.

The plan was proposed in tandem with the implementation of the Clean Air Act, a 35-article bill drafted by Iran's Department of Environment and enacted into law in July 2017. Unfortunately, the act was never fully implemented.

Elaborating further about the act, Ahmadi stated that CAA considers two sources of air pollution, mobile and stationary, offering solutions for each and involving several executive entities in implementing the remedies.

The official emphasized that as a consequence of canceling the scheme, hundreds of workers were laid off due to the closure of scrappage centers.

“Additionally, the age-old, technically-flawed vehicles exacerbate road traffic, worsen air pollution and increase fuel consumption. These outcomes even worsen in the cold season due to the temperature inversion phenomenon,” he added.

Every year, with the drop in temperature in winter, a phenomenon known as temperature inversion occurs when cold air underpins warm air at higher altitudes, leading to the entrapment of air pollutants that cause heavy smog and the parade of gas-guzzlers that mar the city's visual appeal.

Ahmadi urged the government to reorganize the executive units and resume the Scrappage Scheme, pointing to the fact that reviving the project requires the active collaboration of Roads Ministry and the Department of Environment.



Poor Consequences

Launched in 2016, the Scrappage Scheme was cancelled by the last government in October 2017. 

A couple of months later, the ban on auto imports was the last nail in the coffin of the Scrappage Scheme.

The scrappage centers started to shut down one after another, as domestic carmakers were exempted from the scheme and auto imports became history.

Mohammad Shariatmadari, a former industries minister, was at the time quoted as saying that the scrappage “plan will have a huge negative impact on the domestic market and lead to higher prices”.

He warned that the plan would “negatively affect both car buyers and dealers”. His predictions came true soon after the scheme was partially implemented on Sept. 17, 2017, and the Traffic Police stopped issuing license plates to eight vehicles, namely Cherry Tiggo5, Arizo5, MVM X33, JAC S5, Lifan 820, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Haima S7 and BYD S6.

For each of these vehicles with a fuel consumption rate of over 8.5 liters per 100 kilometers, the auto company was required to pay the government 25 million rials ($90). Hypothetically, the money was to be used for removing the dilapidated gas guzzlers from the roads.

Until the amount was paid, the vehicles were not supposed to get the license plates. However, as the car companies refusing to comply, car buyers got a raw deal and were compelled to bear the extra burden.

These vehicles were made or assembled by Iran Khodro, Modiran Vehicle Manufacturing, Kerman Khodro and Karmania.

The main aim of the Scrappage Scheme was reportedly to help reduce the worsening air pollution caused largely by dilapidated cars. However, its early death was the sound of music for automakers who once again resumed their old operations like it was business as usual.



Ineffective Remedies

To control the increasing volume of air pollutants, urban managers of Tehran started to devise several traffic rules, each of which restrict commutation in some way.

Air Pollution Control, Air Pollution Reduction and the so-called Traffic Scheme are two of the plans currently underway in the city.

As per the APC scheme, each vehicle can enter a "restricted zone" in central Tehran for free for a maximum of 20 days each season, or 80 days a year.

Spread over 88.5 square kilometers in central Tehran, the zone is bounded by Imam Ali Expressway to the east, Navvab Expressway and Chamran Highway to the west, Besat Expressway to the south and Hemmat Expressway to the north.

APR compels car owners to have their vehicles checked or face consequences. All two- and four-wheelers are required to undergo mandatory inspections and receive a technical certificate confirming that the vehicles are roadworthy.

The more stringent “Traffic Scheme” in central Tehran is enforced in an area limited by Motahari Street in the north, Shariati Street in the east, Kargar in the west and Shoosh in the south where cars, except public transportation vehicles, are barred from entering the area from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

After the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, traffic schemes in Tehran were halted several times on the government's order to discourage people from using the hazardous public transportation and cut the chain of viral transmission. 

Some experts believe the cancellation of traffic rules worsened air quality in the city. This is while data show that the resumption of traffic had close to zero effect on air pollution, an official with the Department of Environment said.

Mohammad Rastegari, the head of DOE's Environmental Monitoring Office, says air quality data recorded daily by Tehran Air Quality Control Company showed no decline in air pollution after the resumption of traffic restrictions.

He added that over half of Tehran's air pollution is caused by toxic particles released from vehicles and the rest is generated by a variety of factors.

"Tehran's air quality is a fundamental issue that cannot be solved with short-term solutions or overnight decisions. It is a multivariable equation that cannot be changed easily," he said.

Pointing to the decisive effect of environmental phenomena, such as wind, on air quality, the DOE official said wind can be much more effective than the most strict traffic schemes, for it can disperse pollution and change air stability in a few hours.

This is why, he added, traffic schemes alone cannot reduce air pollution, as it can only have a minor impact.



Tehran Clunkers