Tackling Urban Blight

Tackling Urban BlightTackling Urban Blight

About 37% of Tehran’s population lives in 270,000 old properties, long past their shelf life. This accounts for 10% of the total urban area, said a municipal official.

Unsafe  structures in Tehran cover 3,768 hectares of the city area,” said Ebadollah Fathollahi, managing director of Tehran Renovation Organization (TRO), affiliated to the Tehran Municipality (TM). He was addressing the second special meeting on ‘Cities, Citizens and the Media’, ISNA reported.

Pointing to the problems raised by urban blight, he said the TRO takes into account three criteria for labeling a building as unsafe. Accordingly, a structure is defined as timeworn “if 50% of it has three characteristics including fine-grained, non-accessibility, and non-stability.” He said the government, the TM and the local authorities are responsible for helping renovate or redress urban decay. But due to the low funding for renovation, municipal authorities are able to only support renovation of structures that have “all the three characteristics.”

For cities that evolve and develop naturally, urban rot is a purely natural and inevitable phenomenon. However, this is not the case in Tehran, where the deterioration of city structures is “neither a natural nor a standard process,” said Fathollahi.

The deterioration is rather the result of mass migration, illegal acquisition of property, and unauthorized constructions among other things, he added.

On the concentration of urban decrepitude, the civic official said they are mainly located in TM districts 11 and 12. Also, the southern and eastern neighborhoods like Javadieh, Shemiran-No, and Khak-Sefid have structures 50 years old and above.

‘Deh Vanak’, ‘Farahzad’, and ‘Deh-e Kan’ which used to be villages in outlying areas later became part of the city as they developed. These former villages also account for part of the capital’s condemned structures.

 Media Role

Fathollahi called for the media to draw the attention of the public and the officials alike to the issue of urban decay.

“Journalists need to enhance public awareness by gathering and disseminating reliable information as well as identification of problems and help find solutions,” he said.

The training course for journalists at the School of Media Sciences (affiliated to the Islamic Republic News Agency) is being held in this regard as, “urban decay is a serious problem faced by most metropolises all over the world.”

He regretted that no substantial funding has been allocated for urban blight, warning that early action should be taken “before an earthquake ruins the structures,” as was the case in the 2003 Bam earthquake. Prevention of urban decay should be a top concern of the government, the public and the media, just like issues of air pollution and traffic congestion.