IRAN: Children, elderly and the frail of Tehran warned of air pollution threat

Air pollution in the Iranian capital became so bad on the evening of 15 and morning of 16 November that the Department of Environment issued a public warning. The warning advises all vulnerable residents to stay indoors as much as possible.

The Iran Daily reported that the government warning pertained not only to children and the elderly, but also to people with heart conditions and asthma sufferers. The newspaper also noted additional advice from the government-sponsored Air Quality Control Company (AQCC), urging people to travel during the day and recommending the imposition of compulsory vehicle checks to reduce pollution.

A particular increase in carbon monoxide levels was reported by the Tehran Times, with low wind speed and atmospheric “stagnation” blamed for aggravating the city’s continuous battle with air pollution.

The UN acknowledges Tehran as one of the world’s most polluted cities. The AQCC was established in 1993 as a joint project with Japan’s International Co-operation Agency. It is a subsidiary of the municipality of Tehran and is the body in charge of environmental management plans for the Greater Tehran Area. The organisation operates four automated ambient air monitoring stations with Greater Tehran.

AQCC has been criticised by Iranian transport professionals for focusing too much on data collection and not enough on emission reduction. The ability of Japanese staff in combating Iran’s culturally-specific factors in traffic growth has also been questioned.

In July 1998, a Tehran Air Pollution Master Plan was finalised and handed to the Government for ratification. The Master Plan calls for a multidisciplinary approach to pollution control. Pollution projections by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute estimated that Tehran’s air pollution problem would worsen by 20% by 2015 if nothing was done to curb emissions. The projections also showed that the introduction of less polluting vehicles and fuels would see pollution levels remaining at 1995 levels by 2015, while the introduction of improved public transport and less polluting vehicles and fuels would be the most effective solution – leading to a 40% reduction in 1995 pollution levels.

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