Dense Dust Storms Hit Again, Trigger Widespread Shutdowns

Dense Dust Storms Hit Again, Trigger Widespread Shutdowns
Dense Dust Storms Hit Again, Trigger Widespread Shutdowns

Dust storms from outside sources shrouded the western and central areas of Iran on Tuesday, pushing air quality indices to dangerously high levels in the majority of cities and causing widespread shutdowns. 
The mass of dust originating from the deserts of Iraq and Syria has hit most Iranian provinces, including Tehran, IRNA reported.
Other affected provinces include Ardebil, Gilan, West and East Azarbaijan, Kurdestan, Kermanshah, Ilam, Hamedan, Markazi, Isfahan, parts of Fars, Bushehr, Hormozgan, Yazd, Lorestan, and Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad. 
The Air Quality Index in Tehran reached 488, which is labeled as “dangerous”, caused by PM10, particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less. 
Schools were shut down in the capital and universities and work places were closed in the afternoon as the particle pollution intensified. Outdoor sport events were also canceled.
Shutdowns were extended for Wednesday.
Particles are predicted to stay in the capital until late Thursday, according to the Iran Meteorological Organization. 
Multiple other cities also closed schools and universities. Work places were either closed or altered their hours. The AQI reached 500 in some western cities and visibility reached 200 meters, down from standard 10,000 meters.   
Among the most affected provinces were Khuzestan and Kermanshah, which had already experienced several lasting sandstorms and dangerous air quality levels over the past months.
Flights from Kermanshah to Tehran was also canceled due to poor air quality on Tuesday. 
Health experts recommend that sensitive groups, including the elderly and children under five, pregnant women and those with heart and respiratory problems in these areas stay at home, and other individuals only leave home for urgent affairs. 
Sadeq Ziaiyan, a senior official with the Iran Meteorological Organization, said the situation would persist in affected areas for at least two days.
“The intense rise of dust in the entire western half of the country will continue until tomorrow night [Wednesday] and only parts of the east of the country are safe from this phenomenon,” he said, hoping that the air quality would improve by Friday. 
There is no specific domestic source of dust for the current storm, but given the drought conditions, all abandoned rainfed farms and dried up rangelands and wetlands can be counted as dust origins, according to Ziayian. 
Besides Iran and Iraq, other neighbors, including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have also experienced sandstorms over the course of this week. 



Collective Action

Dust storms have hit Iran several times over the past two months, which is blamed on excessive dam-building in neighboring Turkey. 
Head of Tehran’s Air Quality Control Company, Mohammad Mahdi Mirzaei, had earlier said that Turkey’s dams on Tigris and Euphrates rivers have dwindled water flow rates in Iraq which in turn creates dust storms in Iran. 
“With the rise in desertification in Iraq and Syria, numerous sources of dust have been activated in them,” he had said, adding that they greatly influence western Iran.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has also voiced concern about the construction of dams in Turkey, which Ankara immediately brushed off, claiming that Iran’s stance is unscientific.
No bilateral agreement exists on the issue, but the Iranian government has been pushing for more cooperation in the water-stressed region, according to him.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Tuesday that the ministry has placed cooperation with neighbors on its agenda to promote collective action against dust storms. 
“We have started this path with Iraq and intend to encourage Syria and gradually other regional countries at the next step to engage in such regional collaboration,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA.
It has been suggested to the Iraqi side that it host an Iranian delegation or send a team to Iran to draw a roadmap for bilateral cooperation on environmental issues, such as dust storms, he said. 
At international level, the Foreign Ministry over the past years has prepared and put forward resolutions specifically aimed at countering dust storms and the need for regional cooperation toward this end at various platforms, including the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Environment Program, the Islamic Cooperation Organization and other entities, according to the diplomat. 
“By promoting cooperation among regional countries, there is hope that special arrangements can be made in the medium-term for collective measures against dust storms,” he said. 

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints