by Khalil Khani
Khalil Khani has a PhD in Sustainable Naturalist and Environmentalist, with specialization in Soil Conservation, Erosion Control, Rangeland and Watershed Management.
Air pollution in all major cities of Iran has reached a dangerous and alarming level. There are many international and domestic reports on the subject of air pollution in Iranian cities. These various reports have all expressed real concerns and even detailed the causes of such calamity. The issue has become so pressing that the Iranian Clerical Regime’s Environmental Protection Agencies and authorities also expressed concerns and a long list of solutions.
As Mehrnaz Samimi correctly stated in her article, air pollution poses a dire risk to Iranians today. The consequences can be measured in the numbers of pollution-related deaths, the number of school and work days lost to pollution, and additional health challenges experienced by children, the elderly, and people with heart or lung conditions. These are drastic times for Iran’s big cities, and the government must take drastic measures to make the air breathable for its inhabitants.
According to News reports, Tehran’s air quality index hovered around 159 which is more than three times the World Health Organization’s advised maximum (between 0 and 50) during last quarter 0f 2015. Iranian media reported that in an area in North-East Tehran, the index rose as high as 238. With pollution that bad, WHO advises that people in Tehran avoid breathing outside air unless they absolutely have to.
The crisis is nothing new. For 18 days pollution level in Iran’s capital city have been dangerously high during the above mentioned period, forcing many to wear masks or avoid going outdoors. And for the past six years, the air quality in Iran has gotten worse. The Clerical government of Iran claims that this is largely because US sanctions against Iran. US has limited its supply of refined fuel, forcing the country to burn low-quality diesel. Tehran authorities reported last year that 270 people die daily of respiratory disease, heart trouble, and other pollution-related sicknesses.
The crisis is not limited to the capital city. The semi-official Iranian Student News Agency reported on Wednesday that state meteorologists are now predicting that pollution could cause acid rain in Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city.
Iran’s air pollution, an old issue of the past decades, has steadily increased in recent years. The issue became so obvious that the Clerical Regime in most recent official statistics concludes that, on average, one person dies of pollution-related causes in the capital Tehran every two hours. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, four out of the 10 most-polluted cities of the world are in Iran, with Ahwaz, in southern Iran, sitting at the top of the list. Out of 1,099 world cities evaluated for overall air pollution, Tehran was ranked 82, a situation many pollution experts say has worsened since the publication of WHO’s report in early 2015. Now and again Iran has gained its first place of most polluted cities in the WHO recent report.
The issue of air pollution and dust storms in Iran are now not a domestic Iranian problem but is an international problem(9). The latest PM 2.5 level rankings show Iran’s Zabol topping the list with 217 micrograms per cubic meter followed by Gwalior with 176 and Allahabad with 170. Patna at sixth place (149) and Raipur on seventh spot (144) are the other Indian cities in the top 10. In total, the top 20 global cities with highest PM 2.5 levels includes 10 Indian cities, including Kanpur, Ludhiana and Firozabad.
Iran is located in a very specific crossroad. It does have very specific geomorphology and geobotany. Various factors contribute to air pollution in Iran: natural and man caused factors. The majority of Iran consists of arid and semi-arid landscape with the exception of areas North of the Elburz mountains and West, Southeast of the Zagross mountains. Rainfall in these areas is annually 100-500 mm.
The Southern portion of Iran has significant vegetative influence of Sindo-Saharian climate, with which come major fine dust particulates from deserts of North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and india, which results in dust storms in Iran from Khusitan in the Southwest to Baluchistan in the Southeast.
Central Iran which is located within Elburz and Zagross mountain consist mainly of Great and Lut deserts. These deserts are surrounded with massive sand dunes. The capital city, Tehran, is located in this area as well.
Climate pressures, though, are by no means the only factors driving Iran’s dust storms. Particular Iranian agricultural, land, and water management policies substantially aggravate the environmental stresses that worsen dust conditions. For example, over-grazing livestock are dramatically degrading much of the countryside, according to Iran’s Forestry, Rangelands, and Watershed Management Organization.
Iran is now raising more than twice as many head of livestock as the land can sustainably support. Too many livestock grazing the same pastures have denuded the land of the grasses and other vegetation that hold the soil in place. Some 166,000 square miles of the nation’s rangelands are now in poor condition, and growing expanses of barren ground are in turn exposed to dust-generating winds.
Iran’s massive dust storms could also spill well across Iran’s borders, generating serious regional consequences and tensions. Dust clouds veiled Tehran for 117 days of the Iranian year which ran from March 2012-March 2013. And blinding sand storms blocked roads across the eastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan last summer, isolating nearly 60 towns and villages.
Dust storms regularly arise in arid and semi-arid regions around the world. Indeed, the Islamic Republic sits in the center of a Northern Hemisphere “dust belt” stretching from the west coast of North Africa, through the Middle East, and across South and Central Asia to China. Winds gusting over the open, level landscape of Iran’s dry plateaus, deserts, and salt flats readily pick up loose soil and sand, lifting bits of dirt and grit into the atmosphere and carrying it tens, hundreds, or even thousands of miles away.
Nationwide, erosion annually strips thousands of tons of surface soil and sediment from every square mile of the country. The resulting dust storms can close roadways, rail lines, and airports; choke crops; clog machinery; and cloak cities in debilitating air pollution, endangering public health.
The above description of the condition indicates the issue at hand requires immediate and drastic action to be taken. As the world knows about the Clerical Regime of Iran, they have exceptional quality in deception, terrorism, violations of human rights and corruption but nothing substantial doing people’s business. There are many well educated and caring people to take on this act in Iran, however, their participation will result in prosecution and jail time, if they do not vanish entirely.
This important issue, just like other human related issues, cannot be resolved by a corrupt and isolated government. The Clerical Regime of Iran does not have the will and determination even to discuss the issue of air pollution candidly. This problem requires genuine diplomacy with neighboring countries and cooperation with international bodies. Since, Islamic Republic of Iran does have serious systemic integrity and legitimacy problems with Iranians specifically, neighboring countries and world as a whole along with many others, wouldn’t be able to be a party in resolving this important ask.