Air quality has been poor in Tehran and some other cities in Iran for the past weeks. This has resulted in extra holidays last week and restrictions on passenger car traffic in the inner city limits. In addition, as of last week passenger cars can enter the streets only on the basis of their license numbers on odd or even days of the week. This has to some respect diminished the numbers on the streets but the air pollution crisis continued. Experts believe that the low wind speed (between 4-5 Knots) and lack of control and regulation of vehicle emissions are the main reasons.
In 1999 , the Department of Environment , during my tenure, studied and prepared a comprehensive plan to combat air pollution in Tehran. The Plan was prepared on the basis of three national surveys and studies and ultimately adopted by the Government of President Khatami, a year later. The Plan was implemented during the ensuing years and resulted in environmental control over the automotive industry, out phasing of leaded gasoline, promotion and expansion of public transportation systems, promotion of standard and cleaner fuels such as CNG, and public awareness and participation programs. The plan had an efficient management chart and division of work on that basis, between 15 relevant sectors. After the change of government in 2005, the plan faced serious impediments and was practically abandoned. Experts and environmentalists, even Parliamentarians warned officials of the consequences of abandoning environmental programs but Mr. Ahamadinejad had other priorities and the environment was not even in his list.
In order to make up for some of the delays in the plan, after I was elected to the City Council we continued to follow the plan in the Tehran City Council, Environment Committee. We adopted regulations for the Technical Inspection centers, adopted new standards, and recently enacted a revision of the Comprehensive Plan to Combat Air Pollution. In the revised edition, we emphasized on planning to control pollutants and on the volatile organic compounds. According to a recent survey, these VOCs have exceeded standard levels in ambient air in Tehran.
The Government has resorted to publicity stunts like sprinkling water with small planes and claiming to filter the air using 1000 filtration devices. This announcement has raised widespread criticism, questioning the scientific basis of such declarations. " They have mistaken a 700 square kilometer megacity with their home or their backyard" a municipality official noted. Ghalibaf, the Mayor of Tehran dismissed the issue as a "joke". I made the point clear in the Council session last week and in an article published in Shargh and in my Persian blog that the only solution is to proceed with the revised plan and strict regulation and control on emissions.
Any false propaganda and theater will only serve to further alienate citizens who should not be suffering from the consequences of government mismanagement.