Urban and Rural Councils are a clear manifestation of the democratic processes in Iran. President Khatami made the decision during his first term to finally reinstate the law and perform the nationwide elections in which more than 300,000 Iranians were elected in local councils paving way for the implementation of the Constitution and establishment of the basics of local government and decentralization. The current Government now however, sees the Councils as its rival and competes in limiting the authority of these locally elected bodies. According to legislation passed during the previous government, the state was obliged to delegate its local authority in municipal matters to the Councils , instead they are now narrowing the role and authority of these bodies.
In the Tehran City Council we have decided to meet with the people in each district once a week. It is important for us to engage with the people at the local level and with the local authorities. In addition to a 15 person City Council , the Council has held district elections for more than 300 Friends of the Council Groups who are elected in each district for providing advice and oversight and connecting them with citizens at the local levels. This has proved to be a successful experience although there are still shortcomings and problems in terms of the authority delegated to them as well as their budget and plans. Along with some advisors and members of the Environment Committee we visited District No.One in the north of the city. Our first program was meeting with some local people. They had come to meet and speak with their representative. This is a wealthy sector of the city, and the most expensive in terms of land, rent and other daily expenses. It also has many environmental and social problems like other districts.
A large meeting with the local municipal officials had been arranged . They provided reports on environmental management schemes and waste management projects. I then spoke about the importance of environmental protection , sustainable waste management and the challenges we faced in Tehran and the whole country. I told them I hoped to bring the national and international experiences we had to the local level although, Tehran being so vast and highly populated, is a country by many standards. We then met with the members Friends of the Council . They discussed their local environmental issues and I was quite surprised to see them so well informed and sensitive about environmental standards and particularly the protection of green area and trees.
We then visited some of the projects in the city. We inspected a waste recycling center , a mountain trail managed with the assistance of a local NGO, a riverside cleanup project and some other environmental activities. We were finished about 5 in the afternoon. I felt guilty since I told all these people that we wanted to finish soon and we did not have time to stop for lunch. Yet everyone was now hungry. The delegation agreed it was the best tactic to save time.