Mashhad Schools, Offices Disrupted by Pollution

The DOE official called on residents to avoid using personal cars.The DOE official called on residents to avoid using personal cars.

Pollution levels in Mashhad, the capital of Khorasan Razavi Province, deteriorated on Friday, compelling the authorities to take emergency measures to prevent serious health risks.

All schools were closed on Saturday and office opening hours were curtailed by two hours.  The Air Quality Index on Friday reached 172 and was unhealthy for all groups for the second consecutive day, IRNA reported.

According to Hamid Salehi, the head of the provincial Department of Environment, the northeastern metropolis has seen 14 polluted days since the beginning of the current Iranian month (started Dec. 22).

"The residents have experienced only two days of clean air," he said. On Saturday, IQI improved and reached 110, but still remained unhealthy for sensitive groups that include the elderly, children, those with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and pregnant women. The DOE official called on residents to avoid using personal cars and go for public transport, urging vulnerable groups to avoid going to polluted areas.

Over 3 million people reside in Mashhad and up to 1.2 million vehicles ply the streets of the country's second most populated city. Experts say the megacity needs at least six railroads. At present, only two lines have become operational, another is under construction and a fourth is undergoing studies.

Home to the shrine of Imam Reza (PUBH), the eighth Shia Imam, Mashhad annually hosts around 25 million tourists and pilgrims, which add to its demographic load.

The speed at which the city's population is growing far exceeds the speed of public transport development. 

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