‘Air pollution too huge to be addressed by one department’

January 9, 2016

TEHRAN – Concerns over Tehran’s air pollution are simply multifaceted and numerous, far outside the province of one single organization or even a government, according to Mohammad Hossein Bazgir, the head of the Department of Environment of Tehran.

As a main mortality cause claiming the lives of 180 Iranians in Tehran per day, air pollution is being hotly debated these days among officials, where responsible entities just kick the can down the road.

Tehran’s current particulate pollution is explained by a large number of factors over the past years and so; it would be pointless to point the finger of suspicion at specific elements, the environment head stated.

To Bazgir, air pollution is a natural consequence of the over-crowded Tehran because the city is accommodating a populace of 8.5 million or more, 400 to 500 times larger than its capacity.

“Let’s put it another way, Tehran’s population and its industry must be spread over an area of 400 to 500 times larger than its current area,” Bazgir indicated.

Asked what the department under his leadership has done so far to address the air pollution challenge, Bazgir replied that a serious problem with Tehran air as of 2000 was the existence of pollutants such as carbon monoxide and lead in the air.

In 2001, according to Bazgir, an integrative program was approved by the government to rein in air pollution, as a result of which fuel got better in quality and lead was removed from it completely.

""Today, carbon monoxide or lead is almost nonexistent in Tehran’s air pollution, and there has been no record of monoxide carbon since 2007,"" he said, adding that the nature of the air pollution we are dealing with now is different from the one we faced 15 years ago.

Another important measure taken since 2010 is the daily monitoring of PM2.5, particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, the main problem with Tehran’s air pollution, which had not been taken account of beforehand, he added.

Asked why the air pollution is getting worse if fuel quality has improved, Bazgir said that it has definitely improved over the last years, but a serious problem is the excessive consumption of fuel in Tehran.

He went on to say that fuel consumption in Tehran alone is equal or more than many European countries.

“Take Poland for example. Fuel consumed by Polish vehicles is equal to fuel used in the city of Tehran,” he added.

To top it off, the situation has changed a lot in terms of vehicles per capita, meaning that there was one vehicle per family in the past, but today the ratio is much higher, he added.

“Meanwhile, a significant problem with Tehran’s air pollution is that the proportion of different pollutants has not been determined appropriately. Fuel is the tip of the iceberg, but there are other pollutants, as well.

Trash burning, for example! There are about four million vehicles in Tehran, meaning that about 16 to 20 million tires are being used. Some of the worn-out tires are recycled, but many are burnt on open fires in the margins of Tehran in areas like Kholazir, Taghaiabad, and Ghasemabad without any control. One tire pumps out a huge amount of pollution sometimes equal to a factory, but they are hardly ever taken into account. This is just one example.”

“Some studies were carried out in Tehran some time ago by JICA, a Japanese company, to find out the amount and type of pollutants, and current plans are being developed based on those studies,” Bazgir said, adding that the same company is called on to re-conduct the same studies in cooperation with the department of environment and Tehran’s municipality.

Inquired whether the department of environment has taken any measure to reduce fuel consumption in Tehran, Bazgir answered that this is an integrative measure which needs all hands on deck especially media, universities, and Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting to work it out.

He also complained that some media and organizations just blame the department of environment, adding to fight air pollution; people must begin from themselves, their home and their vehicles.

Bazgir concluded his words with a quotation from the Leader saying that “The question of environment is not limited to any government or any movement; it is a national problem.”