Pollution Envelopes Tehran

Pollution Envelopes Tehran Pollution Envelopes Tehran

For the first time since the beginning of the Iranian year (March 21), Tehran’s air pollution hit its worst level on Monday, and this time nobody blamed it on dust storms from neighboring Arab countries that regularly batter large parts of the country.

According to the Tehran Air Quality Control Company, the capital’s air quality index topped off at 162 — within a “red status” which means the level of toxic pollutants in the air posed health risks to each and every person not just those deemed sensitive, according to World Health Organization standards.

Chief executive of TAQCC Vahid Hosseini said PM2.5 (particulate matter up to 2.5 micrometers in size) was seven times above WHO standards.

On Tuesday air pollution was hovering above 150, meaning it was unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, the elderly, and those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

“That doesn’t mean other groups are not at risk,” Hosseini was quoted by ILNA as saying.

He voiced dismay with the delay in implementing the much-publicized measures to reduce the metropolis’ pollution levels and said the law enforcement is simply “not interested in the schemes.”

  Low Emission Zones

One such scheme aims to designate low emission zones, where the most polluting vehicles are regulated. Usually this means that vehicles with higher emissions cannot enter the area. In some low emission zones, the more polluting vehicles have to pay more if they want to enter the low emission zone.

In the LEZ system, cars are categorized under four colors: blue, green, yellow and red, according to the vehicle emission standards.

The is widely expected to  have great impact in reducing exhaust emissions since only vehicles that conform to high emission standards will be allowed to enter the zones.

Hundreds of LEZs now operate in Europe since Stockholm implemented it first in 1996 and are a more effective way of decreasing the contribution of traffic to air pollution than traditional methods.

Experts have been urging officials to replace the failed odd-even car commute scheme with the tried and tested LEZ system.

The odd-even scheme stipulates that private vehicles may be allowed to drive in the city on alternate days, based on the odd or even last digit of license plates. In Iran, the first weekday, Saturday, is earmarked for cars whose license plate number ends with an even digit. Friday, being the weekend, is not included in the scheme.

The main reason this scheme has failed is due to the alarmingly large number of old, poorly-maintained vehicles that roam the streets.

The DOE has voiced its support for the LEZ system.

“The odd-even scheme has been tried in more than 15 countries with mixed results,” said Masoud Zandi, head of the National Climate Center at the DOE, adding that some people may even buy two cars to circumvent the regulation.

  Unenforced Policies

Hosseini said automakers play a big role in the current state of air pollution in Tehran.

“They’re supposed to install special particulate filters on diesel engines, but they don’t,” he said, adding that because environmental policies are not enforced, the unruly car manufacturers get away with it.

“Furthermore, polluting motorcycles ply the streets because those fitted with the outdated carburetor engine are much cheaper than the eco-friendly electric ones,” he said.

“Given what we know, it would be surprising if Tehran’s air wasn’t polluted.”

Hosseini called on the media to take up a more active role in raising awareness about air pollution and urged them to regularly report on Tehran’s pollution level — which is usually in the “yellow region” — and “not only when it becomes too polluted to ignore.”

In 2012, pollution cut short the lives of 4,500 people in Tehran and about 80,000 in the country, according to the Health Ministry.

Last December, almost 400 people were hospitalized with heart and respiratory problems caused by heavy pollution in Tehran, with nearly 1,500 others requiring treatment.