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EghtesadOnline: The hand of nature, rain and wind, has pushed away the suffocating blanket of smog that had covered Tehran, making air in January a tad cleaner compared to the previous month.

Based on the data released by Tehran Air Quality Control Company, although the skies were brighter compared to a month earlier, Tehran residents breathed higher doses of toxic emissions in January 2021 compared to the same month in 2020.

A close analysis of Air Quality Index during the period makes this very clear. AQI is used by government agencies to announce the prevailing level of air pollution, or how polluted it is forecast to become.

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).

In January, people in Tehran did not see clear blue skies even for a single day, while the city recorded moderate status for 10 days, as the index hovered between 51 and 100.

Those with respiratory disorders, cardiovascular diseases, the elderly, pregnant women and children were warned of their outdoor exposure for 10 days, as AQI remained unhealthy for sensitive group.

In the remaining 11 days, the index went up to unhealthy range for all groups, reaching 174 on Jan. 13.

Pollutants measured to determine air quality include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ground-level ozone and particulate matters (PM2.5 and PM10). AQI figures are calculated as per the concentration of pollutants.

During the month under study, PM2.5 — particulate matters smaller than 2.5 micrometers — and NO2 were responsible for the 21 polluted days.

Month-on-month comparisons, however, show that Tehran’s air has been cleaner in January compared to December.

The charts illustrate that AQI did not enter the range of good air quality even for a day.

According to the data, December ended with two consecutive extra polluted days while AQI hit emergency levels.

Monitoring stations in Tehran recorded unhealthy status for all citizens in Dec. 30-31, 2020, with the index hovering between 167 and 168.

Air condition was unhealthy for the sensitive group on 23 days, as it hovered between 101 and 150.

In the six remaining days, the index remained in the moderate state.



Comparative Outlook

The AQI review during the year-ago month shows air quality in Tehran has deteriorated. 

In January 2020, moderate air quality condition was registered on 18 days, but the index entered the range of unhealthy for the sensitive group on 13 days, compelling the authorities to warn them of outdoor exposures.

During the month, AQI hit the emergency button on Jan. 29, 2020, reaching 147.

On the other hand, January 2019 experienced the rare good air quality on two days and moderate air quality dominated the month, as AQI lingered between 51 and 100 for 17 days.

Outdoor activities were banned for the sensitive group on the remaining 12 days, as the index entered the threshold of unhealthy for the group that is between 101 and 150.

The highest AQI reported was 128 on Jan. 23. 



Blame Game

In the absence of a comprehensive solution and a lack of official determination, urban managers have recently faced the public ire over the suffocating air pollution in the capital.

Amid the news of widespread use of low-quality mazut in power stations, bureaucrats are scapegoating the public and waging blame games.

Early this month, Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said because of fuel shortage, refined diesel and mazut have been delivered to power plants. 

“This is not a favorable option. The primary fuel source for the plants is Euro-7 diesel, but to fill the gap and keep the plants running, mazut is being used,” he said.

Just like many other officials, Zanganeh also blamed the public for the high gas and electricity use, stressing that lower consumption can lift the pressure on power plants and reduce their mazut consumption.

This is while recurrent lockdowns over the coronavirus outbreak have led to the closure of universities, schools, restaurants and reception halls, and forced workers to work from home, which should naturally cause a drop in energy consumption. So, the public believe the surge in gas and electricity use is linked to exports and bitcoin production. 

Instead of addressing these speculations, Zanganeh blames the smog on temperature inversion that frequently occurs in winter and lack of public cooperation. 

“The general public can greatly help curb the situation by minimizing private car use and turning down heating systems,” he recommends.

Critics believe that the problem is rooted in the inherent corruption and mismanagement that prioritize everything over citizens’ lives and health. 

Speculations raged in social media outlets about Iran exporting electricity and allowing foreign entities to mine bitcoins. However, bureaucrats have mastered the art of shifting the responsibility of ensuring the adequate domestic supply of gas and electricity to people. 

Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi recently said Tehran Municipality should not be blamed for the toxic air pollution, as other agencies are in charge of decisions giving rise to the problem.

“Curbing air pollution is a comprehensive task involving 19 executive and legislative institutions, and Tehran Municipality’s share of duty and authority is the smallest,” he said.

Earlier, speaking in a Tehran City Council session, Mohammad Alikhani, the head of the council’s Transportation Commission, said the ministries of interior, oil, roads, energy, industries and health, along with Department of Environment, the Traffic Police and the Institute of Standards and Industrial Research of Iran are all tasked with monitoring and controlling air pollution. 

“But they have almost failed to fulfill their responsibility in this regard,” he said.


Tehran Smog rain