Tehran is Top Gasoline Guzzler
Tehran residents do not seem to be serious about reducing the pollution level which has hit new highs in recent weeks. They are busy scoring new records in fuel consumption, known to be a major source of air pollution in the capital. According to the Chairman of Environment Committee of the Tehran City Council (TCC), in the past week gasoline consumption in metropolitan Tehran reached close to 100 million liters.
Mohammad Haghani in an interview with the Persian newspaper Shargh said the daily consumption of gasoline in Tehran is now 14.8 million liters with the average consumption being 1.62 liters per capita. Based on this figure, Tehran has twice the average of national fuel consumption with the people guzzling up 22% of all the gasoline consumed in the country while only 11% of the population lives in the capital. During the same period the country consumed 462 million liters of gas or 66 million liters per day making the per capita consumption for each Iranian 82 liters.
“On average each individual in Tehran consumes 49 liters - one gallon - of gasoline which is a record among all big cities in the world,” he said. For instance, a country like the UK with 35 million vehicles on its roads in 2013 recorded 1.54 billion liters of gasoline use for one month, while in Iran the monthly consumption rate is 1.84 million liters; this is while the number of vehicles in Iran is no more than 15 million.
When looking for reasons behind this fuel consumption frenzy, Haghani looks no further than the inefficiency of the capital’s public transport system. He maintains that unless and until public transport infrastructure is made encouraging for people to use it instead of private cars, the problem is going to persist.
“If only a portion of funds that are spent on subsidizing fuel for private vehicles were used to improve and expand public transportation, then we would see a decline in car accidents, traffic jams, fuel consumption and air pollution,” said Haghani. The ultimate solution to cut fuel consumption in major cities is the expansion of public transport, particularly the metro.’ He emphasized the need for Tehran’s transition from an “auto-centric” to a “people-centric” city but said this would take a long time to achieve. The Tehran expressway circuit has been completed but other criteria like “fuel vehicle and metro qualities have failed to comply with standards.”
Tehran metro runs for only up to 160 km, of which 100 km are above-ground. The metro should be extended to cover 700 km to maintain a balance in public transport.
The report about fuel overconsumption looks all the more grim considering the fact that emission from motor vehicles account for 70% of the pollution in the capital.
The history of Tehran’s substandard fuel goes back to the period between 2011 and 2013 when the previous administration began manufacturing the so-called ‘petro-chemical’ gasoline to cushion the effects of Western sanctions imposed on Iran’s nuclear program. The decision was met with vehement opposition from oil and gas experts and environmental activists who cautioned about the high level of known carcinogens like benzene in domestically produced gas.
Yousof Rashidi, the former president of the climate center at the Department of Environment issued a warning that inhaling benzene-contaminated air significantly increases the risk of leukemia in people.
After a much acrimonious debate on the issue, the production of the ‘petro-chemical’ gasoline was halted in Tehran and six other major cities and replaced with gasoline complying with Euro-4 standards.
Nevertheless, the heavy consumption of gasoline which although is close to Euro-4 standards cannot be justified. On the one hand overconsumption is exerting a heavy toll on the capital’s air per se, but the situation gets graver when one understands that low-quality cars are also part of the problem. According to official figures, there are over 4 million cars and around 3 million motorcycles in Tehran, the majority of which cause inefficient combustion making the level of pollution way above the average global standards.
Finally, there’s the issue of poor public transport culture which is largely blamed for traffic congestions. Although the argument is partially true that some citizens, especially in major cities, are averse to trading the comforts of their private vehicles for public buses, taxis and metros and the long lines of cars with drivers as the sole occupants on the streets and highways is a common scene, however, buses and metros packed with frustrated commuters as well as a shortage of taxis on the streets can well explain why many choose to stick to their private modes of transport.