Saturday, December 11, 2010

Air Pollution and Mismanagement

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.


reza said...

Khanom-e Ebtekaar ... You have been head of Department of Environment, and right now you are a member of City Council, Please DO something for these poor people ... it is not enough to right in your blog about your past proposals or plans ...

There should be a committee (bi-partisan committee) investigating the rumors about using the non-standard gas

Last Tuesday, at the school where I am teaching, two of the senior professors fainted while teaching. One of them is one of the greatest human being I know ... Hopefully he did not died although he was hospitalized for 3 days ...

No one has studied how this will affect youngsters and pregnant women. It is a big disaster ... history will put it next to the Chernobyl and your name will be quoted as one of the officials!

Nancy Reyes said...

keep fighting for good air. It is important for children and old folks like myself who have lung problems.

We have a similar problem in Manila and I have to use asthma medicine whenever we go there.(luckily I live in a small rural town).

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