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Some critics argue that the impact of industrial units on air pollution is negligible comapred with other sources, namely dilapidated vehicles.
Some critics argue that the impact of industrial units on air pollution is negligible comapred with other sources, namely dilapidated vehicles.

Critics Want Better Solution

Environmental officials repeatedly tout the advantages of relocating industrial units to designated areas that lack even basic infrastructure
Opponents of the relocation law say equipping industrial units with new and green technology is a more viable alternative

Critics Want Better Solution

The process of moving polluting units out of Tehran into industrial zones has been slow because the infrastructure isn't there and small units have received no support from the authorities, the head of Iran's Chamber of Guilds said.

Ali Fazeli also told the Persian daily Shahrvand that the industrial zones lack even the most basic infrastructure, such as transportation.

"This has forced many small industrial units to close shortly after moving to these zones," he said, adding that due to a lack of financial support, many of these units have had to pay hefty sums for their relocation.

About a third of all industrial units in the country are located either in or on the outskirts of Tehran, which led to the formation of a law in 1993 (Article 20, Clause 55 of the Municipality Law), which states that "all polluting factories and workshops must be relocated out of the city's boundaries".

It has been 23 years since the law was passed, but only 20% of all polluting units have been moved out of Tehran into industrial zones.

Rather controversially, some critics argue that because the contribution of vehicles to Tehran's air pollution is high (70-80%), industrial units play a negligible role and their contribution can be overlooked, although this has not gone down too well with officials and activists.

"We can just show up at the workshops and close them up overnight and that'll be the end of it; it's easier and more convenient," said Kamran Zangisheh, chief executive of the Organizing Industries and Jobs Company, a subsidiary of Tehran Municipality.

"But that would be neither logical nor the best solution, because it'll cost people their jobs."

  Better Solution

Opponents of the relocation law say the solution is not to move industrial units out of the city, but something simpler: Upgrading the equipment used in factories and workshops.

"Many of these polluting units use outdated equipment that are nearly 50 years old," Abolfazl Roghani Golpayegani, the head of the Industries Commission at Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, was quoted as saying by Shahrvand.

"The most logical solution is to upgrade these facilities … They need green and ecofriendly technology," he added.

The Industries Ministry has reportedly set aside a budget for this purpose.

Deputy Minister of Industries, Mines and Trade Reza Rahmani said outdated equipment is the culprit here and the ministry's top priority is to help small industrial units upgrade their facilities.

Rahmani said the ministry has earmarked "special funding" for the next fiscal year (starts March 21, 2017) to help upgrade industrial units. "As part of the sixth five-year economic development plan (2016-21), we aim to upgrade 20,000 small industrial units, which account for about 25% of all small units in the city," he added.

Environmental officials have repeatedly touted the advantages of relocating industrial units to designated areas, but as long as the infrastructure in these zones is lacking, business owners will be reluctant to move out of the city. The arrival of winter heralds Tehran's weeks-long battle with air pollution thanks to a phenomenon known as temperature inversion, during which cold air underlies warmer air at higher altitudes, trapping pollutants within the confines of the city.

While many point the finger of blame at substandard vehicles which burn low-quality petrol, some have long argued that the presence of industrial units in and around the sprawling capital city have an undeniable impact on Tehran's air pollution plight.

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