TM’s Environmental Poster Ploy Draws Ire

 TM’s plan to create a green belt around the city becomes irrelevant when the existing green spaces are not protected TM’s plan to create a green belt around the city becomes irrelevant when the existing green spaces are not protected

The Tehran Municipality’s (TM) project displaying costly environmental posters on billboards across the city has drawn skepticism in social media networks with many citizens criticizing the TM’s contradictory approach to urban management. 

Over the past two decades, the TM has been blamed for the destruction of 5,000 hectares of the capital’s gardens to make way for high rises, as well as the logging of trees, namely the large number of iconic plane trees along the Vali Asr Street, the capital’s main and longest street.  

The project, referred to as “Fresh City,” has been organized by the municipality’s Tehran Beautification Organization (TBO) as part of a series of programs through advertisements, such as the “Healthy Citizen” campaign launched in January.

The latest poster series on four main themes: “Clean Air”, “Clean Earth”, “Clean Energy” and “Biodiversity,” will be on display for 10 days until December 12 on 300 billboards across Tehran, said Hussein Vojoudi, advertising manager at the TBO. 

“The concepts of the messages were determined by the municipality’s policy-making council comprising relevant organizations including the TM’s environmental office, and the Department of Environment (DoE),” he said.  

While the move is positive, the municipality has been charged with double standards. It should be recalled that three years ago in October 2013, municipal workers cut down a number of trees on Vali Asr, some as old as 60 years or more, as “decaying and dead trees” posed a hazard to pedestrians. The trees were planted at the same time that the street was first built in 1922.

Other than the logging of trees and destruction of gardens over the years, the TM has also been blamed for selling parks, especially in districts 1, 2, 3 and 5, to construction companies to build high rise towers; a measure taken “to earn unsubstantial income and plug the deep holes in TM’s budget,” say several members of the Tehran City Council (TCC), the elected body that appoints the  mayor and oversees TM budgets. 

 TM Approach Not Eco-Friendly

Mohammad Haqqani, councilor, told the Persian daily ‘Iran’ that urban management organizations do not have an eco-friendly approach.  

“Protecting Tehran’s gardens and natural ecological resources can help curb air pollution, but this is not the dominating view among municipal officials.” 

Also, the TM’s plan to create a green belt around the city across 38 hectares becomes irrelevant when the existing green spaces are not protected, Haqqani warned.  

“Despite over 200 trillion rials ($5 billion) of annual income per year, the municipality depends on unsubstantial income, to fund its high-cost projects that often exceed budget allocations,” he said.   

For instance, the TCC had allocated 1.15 trillion rials ($29 million) to the municipality to buy gardens in Kan District in northwest Tehran, but no purchase has been made yet, he noted. 

However, Mohammad Mehdi Tondguyan, a member of the Gardens Commission of the TCC, defending the urban authorities’ action, pointed out that over 150 requests for the logging of trees on Vali Asr Avenue had been made by district municipalities, and most of the requests were denied. Only those that were absolutely necessary were permitted. 

Meanwhile, municipal authorities claim that the destruction of Tehran gardens occurred in the 1990s and the city has seen an increase in its green areas since the 2000s. Sixty private gardens in the northern parts of Tehran have also been bought by the municipality and turned into public parks.   

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