Green Spaces Vanishing

Green Spaces Vanishing Green Spaces Vanishing

The Tehran City Council’s relationship with the capital’s municipality and in particular Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has been everything but close. The two sides have often clashed — publicly — on two major issues: Tehran’s perennial air pollution woes and the capital’s systemically shrinking green spaces.

In an interview with the Persian daily Etemad, the chairman of the city council’s environment committee, Mohammad Haqqani, lambasted the municipality and the mayor for their lack of vision and profit-driven strategies that are costing the sprawling capital dearly.

“Our green spaces are not doing well at all,” the senior councilman said. “They keep shrinking every day in contrast to massive buildings that keep popping up everywhere.”

Completely disregarding the basic tenets of sustainable development, he said those in charge over the past several years tore down Tehran’s parks and gardens to build housing complexes and shopping malls that now dot the city skyline and have resulted in strong condemnation by experts, demographers, environmentalists and the public at large.

“The municipality insists that it planted five million trees in one year, but has anyone checked the veracity of their claim?” the councilor asked. “Even if true, I doubt that even a fraction of those trees are still green.”

Describing cities as urban ecosystems, Haqqani said a sustainable city successfully “balances its non-living or skeletal features (buildings, streets) and living components (trees, rivers), but in Tehran there is no such thing.”

The capital’s population has quadrupled to 12 million in just 30 years.

Tehran’s unrestrained and disorganized urbanization has left barely 16.5% of the city area covered with green areas.

  Per Capita Green Space

In order to address the problem, Tehran’s per capita green space must be calculated, but that is a problem in and of itself, according to Haqqani.

“We haven’t even agreed on how to calculate that,” he said.

The Ministry of Roads and Transportation says Tehran’s recommended per capita green space is somewhere between seven and 12 square meters, while the Department of Environment and Parks and Green Spaces Organization believe the figure should be 30 to 50 square meters.

  Multifactorial Problem

From the government down to the city council and municipality, Haqqani thinks everyone must share the blame for the winnowing away of Tehran’s green landscape.

Gone are the years when people scrambled to buy land to turn into a garden. “Lands have become a commodity that people buy and sell to make a profit, while in the past people were eager to turn the lands into gardens because they had economic value.”

Even the municipality, whose budget is mostly made up of its own activities rather than government funding, sees more profit in selling lands.

“Instead of devising ways to turn parks and gardens into sustainable sources of income, their profit-driven strategies include selling off green spaces to private enterprises to build towers, in order to make a quick buck,” Haqqani complained, adding that only 20% of the TM’s budget over the past two years came from sustainable sources of revenue.

“Managing urban green spaces is a responsibility of the municipality, but to be honest it’s a pretty costly affair. The government must step in to help the municipality preserve parks and gardens,” the councilor told the newspaper.

Haqqani also pointed the finger of blame at the city council, accusing his colleagues, in particular the head of the council, Mehdi Chamran, of not doing enough to protect Tehran’s dwindling green spaces.

He said the elected body voted for reviewing an emergency measure to preserve parks and gardens months ago, but nothing has been done since.

“If the members vote in favor of reviewing an emergency measure, the bill has to be put up for review within a week. However, Mr. Chamran has not yet presented the bill,” Haqqani was quoted as saying.