People, Environment

Critical PM10 Level Cripples Khuzestan Province, Again

Critical PM10 Level Cripples Khuzestan Province, Again
Critical PM10 Level Cripples Khuzestan Province, Again

Public offices and schools in Khuzestan Province were closed Monday due to the dangerously high concentration of PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less) in the air.

Concentration of PM10 in the provincial capital Ahvaz reached 9,977 µg/m3 — 66 times the standard — on Saturday afternoon and over 5,000 µg/m3 in most other cities. The acceptable daily average for PM10 is 150 µg/m3.

“The level will remain high throughout Monday, but things should improve in the following days,” Ahmad Lahijanzadeh, head of the provincial office of the Department of Environment, told ILNA.

All schools, universities and public offices were ordered closed in 15 southern cities, including Ahvaz, Abadan, Khorramshahr, Mahshahr, Shadegan, Bostan, Hoveyzeh, Susangerd, Omidiyeh, Ramshir, Susa, Karun, Bavi, Hamidiyeh and Hendijan.

Ahmad Sayahi, deputy for construction affairs at the governorate of Khuzestan, strongly suggested that Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences provide free services to those suffering from respiratory problems due to the bad air quality.

The closure of schools and offices is reminiscent of last February, when persistent dust storms locked everyone indoors, crippling the entire oil province and filling emergency rooms with people complaining of breathing difficulties.

Experts are of the opinion that most of the sources of dust storms, which have become more frequent and intense recently, are located in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria, but domestic sources, including the desiccated wetlands such as Hoor al-Azim in Khuzestan and Hamouns in Sistan-Baluchestan, have made a bad situation worse.

Tehran has appealed for an international effort to help tackle the problem that has imposed a high toll in human life and colossal economic cost on the government, but only Iraq has shown some interest in working toward that goal. The Saudis have no diplomatic ties with Tehran and even when they had the House of Saud apparently had no interest in environmental cooperation.

According to Ziaeddin Shoaei, head of the Department of Environment’s task force to combat dust storms, about $1.45 billion is needed to tackle the phenomenon. But the DOE lacks the financial resources and the political clout to battle the crippling dust storms that have affected large parts of the country.