They Came, They Saw, But Little Else

Travel & Environment Desk
They Came, They Saw, But Little Else
They Came, They Saw, But Little Else

The 15th International Environment Exhibition ends its four-day run on Thursday, concluding what many say was an improvement on previous editions but noting that it still has room for improvement.

 The first major environmental event to take place after lifting of the economic sanctions in January, the exhibition’s main theme was green economy and how to develop it using clean and sustainable technology. So, the fact that the event was held alongside the Eighth International Renewable Energy, Lighting and Energy Efficiency Exhibition at the Tehran Permanent Fairgrounds was more than a coincidence.

In addition to developing a green economy, new technology can help Iran address the worsening environmental problems and meet its international obligations.

Substandard vehicles have taken a heavy toll on air quality in major cities, while gross mismanagement of water resources and inefficient farming practices have seen water reserves plummet to alarmingly low levels. Furthermore, the country’s energy policies and practices have made Iran a top ten emitter of carbon dioxide. The government in Tehran has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 4% by 2030 but says it needs modern technology to achieve the ambitious target.

From suppliers of sustainable technology to producers of eco-friendly vehicles, participants at this year’s event went all out on promoting their green products.

Environmental protection is not considered a major topic of discussion in Iran, which, combined with the lackluster promotion of the event, led to a small visitor turnout.

There were large groups of students on school excursions at the event. Whereas representatives of businesses failed to seize the opportunity to properly present their products and their positive impact on the environment to the young, environmental activists and NGOs were active trying to raise awareness among the students.

About 100 NGOs from 31 provinces participated at the exhibition, a testament to the Department of Environment’s stated goal of empowering community-based groups to raise environmental awareness.

Visitors were mostly drawn to the advanced technology on display, such as energy-efficient light bulbs, solar panels and wastewater treatment technologies. However, their interest would diminish when they enquired about the prices -- a bit too prohibitive for many.

“People simply say ‘we do not have money’ and walk away,” a representative of a solar panel company told the Financial Tribune.  

  Air Pollution

The largest Iranian automakers, IKCO and SAIPA, were present showing off their latest technology in an attempt to sway Iranian consumers to buy their products.

Tehran and most other metropolises have been grappling with air pollution for years, which is blamed mostly on poor quality domestically-produced vehicles. Since 2013, the government claims to have turned up the heat on Iranian carmakers to improve their brands before they lose more market share.

President Hassan Rouhani made the point abundantly clear on Monday when he told the auto behemoths that time was not on their side. You must either improve and compete with foreign companies or simply get out of the way, was the strong presidential message to the domestic  carmakers and their bloated bureaucracies long used to selling at high prices with low quality.

The Department of Environment organized a number of workshops and debates which were open to the public and attended by several officials. The most important debate was on air pollution, but the majority of the event was used up by officials long on rhetoric and short on substance without providing practical solutions to a problem that kills about 80,000 Iranians every year.

Overall, 271 domestic companies and 23 from 20 countries including Britain, Germany, Sweden, France, Republic of Ireland, Canada, Taiwan, Belgium, Italy, Finland, Spain, Czech Republic, Holland, Austria, Brazil, New Zealand, Denmark, Turkey, Switzerland and the US, participated at the event.

The strong presence of NGOs and foreign firms compared to past years was a standout feature of this year’s exhibition, which many said made them feel that it would help the country on the arduous road to protecting the environment.

Participants were generally satisfied with the organization of the exhibition, although a few complained about the lack of a strong promotional campaign. Some said though much better than previous editions, the expo was not well received by relevant industries in light of the lifting of internationals economic and banking restrictions.

“Many opted not to participate because the shadow of the western-imposed sanctions still weighs heavy on the event, and indeed, the economy,” said a representative of a waste-to-energy company who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Past events suffered due to the economic sanctions, which tarnished the image of the exhibition. These things take time to get back to normal.”