Environment
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Renewed Call for Giving Pollution Tax to DOE

Iran introduced green taxes in 2009 to promote sustainable development and reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment
Polluting industries are charged 1% of their annual revenue as environmental tax.Polluting industries are charged 1% of their annual revenue as environmental tax.

Khuzestan Province's top environment official has renewed the Department of Environment's calls for changing a regulation that allows municipalities to collect pollution tax.

Addressing a meeting with local NGOs late last week, Ahmadreza Lahijanzadeh added that the municipalities' collection of pollution levies "has to be brought to an end", IRNA reported.

"Nothing has harmed the environment (in Khuzestan) as much as this pollution tax issue," he said.

Iran introduced green taxes in 2009 to promote sustainable development and reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment, but the levy is paid to municipalities even though the DOE is responsible for environmental issues.

The official said 2.2 trillion rials ($58 million) in pollution tax were paid by industries in Khuzestan in the last fiscal year (March 2015-16), but none of it was spent on improving environmental conditions.

"After forking out money on pollution tax, industries are reluctant to spend more to address environmental problems," he said. "What's worse, municipalities don't spend the money where it should be spent; the environment doesn't see a dime of it."

Driving his point home, Lahijanzadeh pointed to the DOE's annual budget of 1.67 trillion rials ($43.5 million), which is noticeably less than Khuzestan's revenue from pollution tax.

"If the levy is paid to us (the provincial DOE office), we will not have to rely on the DOE for funding," the official said.

Polluting industries are charged 1% of their annual revenue as environmental tax, according to Article 38 of the Value Added Tax Law that went into effect in 2009.

Saeed Motessadi, deputy for human environment at DOE, has long been a vocal critic of the law.

“The law is full of holes. For instance, pollution tax must be calculated based on the emissions of an industry, not its income," he said.

According to Motessadi, Tehran Municipality receives between $555 million and $833 million a year in pollution tax.

Environment officials accuse municipalities of lack of transparency when it comes to how pollution taxes are spent.

“What portion of that money has the municipality spent on addressing environmental concerns?” Motessadi asked, stressing that obliging industries to pay the levy to Tehran Municipality makes little sense.

  Symbol of Unsustainable Development

Lahijanzadeh said Khuzestan is the "symbol of unsustainable development in Iran and perhaps even in the world".

Pointing to the province's economic activities, he said Khuzestan is a top province in terms of oil production, industrial activities and farming. "However, we're also battling it out for top spot in terms of air pollution and particulate matter concentrations," he added.

The province's iconic river, Karoun, is plagued by industrial and urban waste, while key wetlands such as Hoor al-Azim and Shadegan are struggling for survival due to the excessive withdrawal of groundwater resources.

"Their desiccation not only exacerbates dust storms that originate in neighboring countries, but also contribute to rising temperatures," he said, noting that the mercury soared as high as 55 degrees Celsius last year.

Lahijanzadeh said 40 years ago people used to migrate to Khuzestan, but today everyone's leaving.

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