Cabinet adopts measures to control air pollution

Tehran, Dec 29, IRNA – Cabinet on Wednesday decided to devise short-term and swift plans for controlling air pollution.

President Hassan Rouhani addressed the issue at a meeting of his cabinet as concern rises about people’s health risks.
‘The problem has been around for years and cannot be entirely tackled in a short time.’

The cabinet session mandated all organs concerned to seriously implement related plans.

‘Public concerns over air pollution, especially in the metropolitan cities, are right and efforts should be made to alley their concerns.

Though air pollution has existed for long years and it cannot be fully eliminated in the short term, government considers it necessary to take short- and mid-term plans to control air pollution, which has become more tangible for the public these days. People should feel all problems are being tackled and solved.’

He said the bill on cean air was submitted to Majlis by government in 2014 and the MPs’ motion on technical examination of vehicles led to minimization of the span of technical test of cars to three years.

He said solution should be found for high rise buildings and towers, especially those lying on the corridor of air movement, and from now construction iof such buildings n such areas should be banned.

The President went on to say that supervisory measures should be adopted to monitor the vehicles that are more pollutant, especially those belonging to the government institutions and the public transportation buses.

He added that motorcycles are more pollutant and their traffic should be restricted at least on the days the weather is unclean. Meanwhile, efforts should be made for correcting their production system, he noted.

President Rouhani said the government has decided to provide more help to improve the public transportation fleet, especially buses and subway transportation.

Vice President and Director of the Department of Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar said recently that currently air pollution affects the lives of 30 million Iranians.

Ebtekar explained that the current air pollution is the product of mismanagement in the past years and in order to avoid any further damages it needs to be dealt with right away.

She said raising awareness and developing public transportation are of great importance in preventing air pollution.

More than two weeks of heavy pollution led Iranian officials to ban all outdoor sport and impose new traffic restrictions Wednesday as persistent cold weather exacerbated Tehran’s air quality problems.

In the worst concerted period of pollution for three years, primary schools and nurseries were closed and new car exclusion zones imposed in the capital.

Tehran’s air quality index averaged 159 on Wednesday, up two from the previous day, and more than three times the World Health Organization’s advised maximum of between zero and 50.

At such levels people are advised not to leave home unless absolutely necessary.

One area in northeastern Tehran peaked at 238 on the pollution index.

Wednesday was the 18th straight day of dangerously bad air.

The cold weather is causing climate inversion—where emissions from car exhausts hang in the air rather than rising into the atmosphere above.

A decade-long central restriction zone based on car number plates was in place across the city on Wednesday, traffic police announced.

Vehicles with plates ending in an odd number can’t go out on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, while cars with even numbered plates are banned on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Sand and cement factories around the capital have been banned from operating until Friday, the end of the Iranian week, and all outdoor sport including professional football league matches has been called off.

Exhaust fumes from the five million cars and almost as many motorcycles on Tehran’s roads account for 80 percent of its pollution, officials say.

Two permanent zones of traffic restrictions introduced in 1979 and 2005 have failed to rectify the sprawling city’s poor air quality.

While Tehran is the epicenter of the problem, primary schools in other major cities including Isfahan, Qom, Arak and Tabriz were also forced to close.

Weather forecasters predicted that air quality would improve after expected rainfall on Wednesday evening.

Last December, almost 400 people were hospitalized with heart and respiratory problems caused by heavy pollution in Tehran, with nearly 1,500 others requiring treatment.

In 2012, pollution contributed to the premature deaths of 4,500 people in Tehran and about 80,000 in the country, the health ministry said.