Tehran, Social situation
In 2004, the population of Tehran Metropolis passed beyond 12 million. This is a high figure but is not disproportionate with respect to the total population of Iran (15.6%). This proportion has remained nearly constant for the past 40 years. Tehran’s urban region, after a period of rapid growth between 1950 and 1970, similar to other metropolises of the world is now witnessing slow growth rate. Since 1976, other cities of Iran have had a faster growth rate than Tehran. Thus the proportion of Tehran’s urban region population to the total population, after its stability between 1930 and 1960 at around 25%, decreased from 30.4% in 1976 to 24.1% in 1996. In this sense, Tehran is neither disproportionate nor too large. It is a metropolis within scale of a country with 70 millions inhabitants. Since 1976, and especially after 1986, development of Tehran Metropolis has been characterized by a rapid growth of its suburban areas that contain 30% of its now 12 million inhabitants. Therefore, Tehran’s urban region is geographically very different from 1970s, not only in terms of population (according to 1990 census, Karaj, Eslamshahr and Qarchak had 940000, 265000 and 138000 inhabitants, respectively) but also socially, culturally, economically and administratively.
Today, territorial divisions between rural and urban areas are more meaningless than before. There are villages with population of several thousand which cannot acquire the status of “cities”. This situation has caused some dehestan (rural cantons) to be considered as the most populous concentrations of the province. In the 1996 census, 7 cities had more than 100000 and 34 cities had more than 25000 inhabitants.
Some dehestans could be considered as cities in terms of population, but do not have adequate facilities and services to be called cities. For example, Emamzadeh Abutaleb, near Robatkarim, has 125000 residents, or Mohammadâbâd, near Karaj, has a population 100000; yet both are considered as dehestans.
Distribution of population in the City of Tehran and its urban area is quite unbalanced because the province of Tehran has both vast rural areas in the desert regions with low population as well as very rich and well irrigated arable lands that include very populous large villages. Populated areas in old quarters of the City are in a clear contrast with industrial regions with nearly no residential population. Therefore, average population density in various regions is meaningless: average density of province is 5.3 persons per hectare (pph), while in the City of Tehran it is 92 pph and in the province without Tehran, it is only 1.9 pph.
Tehran is a capital with a low average density because it has vast areas which are unbuilt. Previously, cities and villages used to take from in groups. Scattered huts, houses or industries were rare. This manner of occupying lands had led to completely distinct urban and rural landscape identity. This distinction between the “city” and the “village” is still obvious, although they now have similar socio-geographic features in social, cultural and economic respects. Since the emergence of suburban settlement is a relatively new phenomenon, no suitable method is yet available to turn empty arable and barren lands into built-up ones. Arable and barren lands that surround Tehran have given this metropolis a very heterogeneous and unbalanced image. Differences are always striking between highly dense areas in the southern half of the City (with 412 pph in districts 10, 14 and 17, and an overall average density of 300 pph) and low density areas in northern quarters with 40-90 pph (Vanak 44, Zafaraniyeh 54, and Tajrish 63 pph).
Although southern quarters have a higher density, there is no real contrast between the City’s north and south. Rather a more complicated geographical situation has been shaped: the City center that previously had a higher population density is now facing a decrease in residential population and its density is now lower than the City average (Ferdowsi, 92 pph). Municipal districts 21 and 22, which are recent additions to Tehran’s limits, and are less populated, could be exceptional because the industrial zone between Tehran and Karaj as well as the vacant and afforested land are located within them.
The unbalanced distribution of population is also observable beyond Tehran’s borders as well. Between the less populous mountainous area to the north and the desert rim areas, with a population of less than one pph, to the south, population concentration is greater in the mountain’s base. Except the Varamin plain and specially in the southern part of Tehran, where agricultural activities have become marginal and where villages have become cities indeed, agricultural areas have remained very thinly populated (between 1-3 pph). Suburbs have often taken shape without a plan. They have developed on arable lands that are restricted by law to be used for building construction. Much of such land has turned into cities such as Qarchak (212 pph) or Akbarâbâd (825 pph). The situation in Eslamshahr (81 pph) or Karaj (49 pph) is better because their urban development was quickly brought under control.