People, Environment

DOE Says Air Pollution Gradually Abating

DOE Says Air Pollution Gradually AbatingDOE Says Air Pollution Gradually Abating

Air pollution across Iran has been decreasing gradually during the past two years, according to an official at the Department of Environment.

Crediting the Rouhani administration for the rare achievement, Saeed Motessadi, deputy for human habitats at the DOE, said, “The government has been seriously pursuing solutions to the air pollution problem; as such, we’ve noticed improvement in air quality [since 2013],” according to Fararu news website.

He was quick to point out that the impact of dust storms, which have afflicted more than two-thirds of the country, was not taken into account, meaning pollution caused only by industrial pollutants and car and motorcycle emissions were used in the department’s assessment of air quality.

Among the measures taken, Motessadi pointed to the “distribution of Euro 4 quality gasoline in the polluted metropolises and an 18% increase in the use of gas in power plants” as the most effective.

This is while Tehran experienced only 11 “clean” days in the March 21 – November 11 period — that is 11 out of 236 days.

Furthermore, tests on Euro 4 gasoline carried out by the Tehran Air Quality Control Company in October showed significantly high amounts of sulfur, although the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company dismissed the claim.

  Killing Machines

Old, poorly-maintained vehicles are generally regarded as the main contributor to the air pollution predicament said to be reaching crisis proportion. To make matters worse, motorcycles, which litter every human-inhabited area, have emission rates four times that of passenger vehicles.

Comparing polluting cars to killing machines, Vahid Hosseini, head of the TAQCC, said earlier this year Tehranis are “being killed en masse” and old cars are the culprits.

“We have strict rules for curbing air pollution, such as subjecting cars to regular technical checkup and removing old gas-guzzlers from the streets, but they’re rarely enforced.”

The government introduced a car loan scheme in November in a bid to help alleviate the deepening financial problems of state-owned automakers and help remove clunkers from the overcrowded streets.

“Given the finances of (domestic) automakers, offering the loan was a sensible thing to do,” Massomeh Ebtekar, the head of the DOE, said at the time in defense of the scheme that has come under criticism from independent environmentalists and economic experts questioning the indefensible performance of the loss-making car companies having become used to high prices and low quality.

She said the vehicles that are sold through the new loan scheme comply with strict Euro 4 standards.

The loan plan, however, drew criticism also from health professionals, with Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh leading the charge.

“Now, thousands of additional cars will ply the already overcrowded streets in most big cities without paying heed to environmental or air pollution concerns,” he protested.

According to TAQCC, more than 500,000 private vehicles in Tehran alone threaten the wellbeing of the 10 million residents of the sprawling capital aka as the showroom of cars!

About 80,000 people die prematurely every year in Iran due to air pollution, accounting for 21% of all deaths in the country of 80 million people.

Ebtekar says policies aimed at curbing air pollution have not been implemented since 2005, essentially shifting the blame on past governments.

Official statistics indicate that more than 4,400 people die annually in Tehran alone, meaning one person dies every two hours in the metropolis due to high pollution levels.

Other metropolises are hardly better: Every year, 3,200 people die in Mashhad because of toxic pollutant levels, whereas Isfahan’s share is 2,700.

In 2013, Ahvaz topped the list of the world’s 10 most polluted cities, while Sanandaj, Kermanshah and Yasouj also made it to the list.