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Tehran Conditions Substandard

The problem of urban life in Iran is getting worse, as municipalities twist the laws for generating funds and finding alternative means of revenue for their organizations
Half of the Tehran Municipality’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year (March 2017-18) will come from exclusionary construction permits for multi-story buildings.Half of the Tehran Municipality’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year (March 2017-18) will come from exclusionary construction permits for multi-story buildings.

Iranian urban life in the modern era is aching for a revision of procedures and line of thinking, said the minister of roads and urban development. 

“It’s more than 100 years now that we are flirting with the concepts of modernity and industrialization, and have employed them in our policymaking. The entry of new technologies into Iran coincided with the country’s modern era. But the question is: Have these technologies increased people’s standards of living?” the Persian daily Shargh quoted Abbas Akhoundi as saying. 

“Although Tehran’s natural capacities were limited in the past, people used to enjoy its clean air, water and soil. But a handful of decision-makers think they can impose any condition on the environment with the help of modern technology,” he said. 

The minister noted that city officials are enchanted with modern technology and presume they can even fight nature by means of technology. 

“They believe they could move water for hundreds of kilometers or construct any bridge wherever they wished, regardless of natural restrictions. Such a line of thinking has imposed a heavy burden on the capital city,” he said.

“Now, mobility in Tehran has become almost impossible and water shortage and air pollution have reduced the quality of life.” 

A survey recently conducted by Iran Urban Economics Scientific Association said 70% of Tehran’s population have exceeded the optimum level. In other words, it can provide only 2.3 million of its residents with decent living conditions. 

According to latest estimates, 10 million people are living in the capital and over 14 million are living in greater Tehran.

The dominance of technology over rationality dates back to the Constitutional Movement. 

“The symbol of such a perspective was Plasco Building, the first high-rise built in the city,” Akhoundi said. “I wonder why they built such high rises in the first place. When did Tehran start needing these buildings?”

The famous 17-story Plasco tower collapsed on January 19 after fire engulfed its upper floors and resulted in the death of 20 people, including 16 firefighters. Most of the business units and shops in the building were not insured and lacked basic safety standards.

Some councilors blamed the low budget allocated to firefighting department for the building collapse although the brave firefighters did their best with what little equipment they had at their disposal to contain the blaze. 

Plasco was one of the capital’s oldest high-rises and housed 600 units, including clothing workshops.

Akhoundi noted that the problem of urban life in Iran is getting worse, as municipalities twist the laws for generating funds and finding alternative means of revenue for their organizations.

“The ‘building forest’ we are witnessing in Tehran is a result of selling urban space as well as people’s rights and the future generations’ chances of living by the city managers to profiteers equipped with technology. 

The only thing which is not important here is citizens’ quality of life, particularly their peace of mind and social stature. On the surface, the city looks like a developed place but in actuality, the residents’ quality of life has declined,” he said.

The minister stressed that Tehran is not livable and a point of return is badly needed. 

Asked about his stance regarding the relocation of Iran’s political and bureaucratic capital, Akhoundi said, “Tehran is a relocated capital itself and it has been around as capital city for only 200 years. 

“If the current trend of city management persists, the next capital city will meet the same fate. Capital cities do not have expiry dates. They are the whole character of the country and its nation.  In addition, the costs of capital city relocation would be astronomical,” he said.

“We cannot escape reality. Iran’s high rises have proved to be insecure in the face of fire. On the one hand, we do not know how to tap into modern technologies while we are bent on putting excessive pressure on the capacities of cities.” 

According to Akhoundi, half of Tehran Municipality’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year (March 2017-18) will come from exclusionary housing policies, based on which TM allows the construction of multi-story buildings without complying with considerations relevant to zoning regulations, such as parking, traffic load and air pollution. 

“This is a textbook example of a management based on profiteering in a society where the rule of law is weak,” he concluded.

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