Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day: Red Apple in a Green Plate

The open session of the Tehran City Council yesterday was attended by many municipality officials as well as journalists and ordinary people. I had asked the procurement officer of the City Council to buy red apples enough for those present in the session. Mehdi Chamran, the Head of the Council was reluctant to accept my plan to distribute the apples, however I insisted and explained that on the occasion of Earth Day I intended to make a simple demonstration of how fragile the earth is. After some resistance he finally accepted , the apples were distributed with a green plate and plastic knife. I  reminded everyone that they should not eat the apples and wait for my explanations. There was a sense of suspense and anticipation, the Government supporters in the Council were very worried that I may use this opportunity to speak out as I had done before. Chamran finally gave me the floor to talk. I compared the apple to our planet earth and I asked everyone to cut the apple into 4 equal pieces. 3 pieces are water, the oceans lakes and wetlands where life has begun and is sustained. 1/4 of the apple is land. I asked them to half that one piece and told them that half of that land including mountain cliffs and  deserts is not habitable for humans. " Take one piece and cut it into four pieces"  that would be the equivalent of arable land where where humans can cultivate to reap the fruits and products,  I told them.  I then asked them to peel the skin off that very small piece , "this is the top soil in which we can hope to produce food for about 7 billion inhabitants of this planet. That is the lesson of the apple. Now we can eat it together."
Some members were eating the apple before I began and some were joking about the cooking lessons I was giving.
Yet the message came across, particularly when the combination of green plate and red apples came out in the media.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Source of Hope

As the first City Council visit this year, along with members from the Environment Committee, I visited the Recycling Mega-Plant in the South of Tehran. Kahrizak which is the District now mostly known for the notorious   detainment facility where several young protesters were beaten to death last year, also harbors the largest recycling facility in the Middle East. The Environment Committee during my tenure has visited the Plant for four times and we witnessed dramatic changes this time. More than 7000 tons of waste are produced in Tehran everyday, up to several years ago all of this was dumped in a landfill which has grown considerably in size.Two years ago we adopted  a bill on the Comprehensive Plan for Tehran Waste Management and the Law has been implemented for the past years. Throughout the city more than one hundred recycling centers where dry  waste is collected has been set up, coupons are given to people who deliver the paper, glass or plastic and recently a green credit card system is being implemented.
As we witnessed yesterday , now more than 4000 tons of waste are composted to produce grade A fertilizer and projects to compost the rest of the 3000 tons are underway. A wastewater treatment plant is underway and a well engineered landfill with geo-membrane lining has been constructed which will harbor the remaining 10 percent of waste which cannot be composted.
There are many remaining projects and alot of work remains to be done in this area. What we saw and recorded was significant strides in implementing the Comprehensive Plan by the Tehran Municipality. This is in contrast to what we see in the government sector and  very promising at a time when the they are weak and incapable in implementing large projects successfully . It is a source of hope for a city of  9 million residents.