In recent years, industrialization and urbanization have aggravated the environmental health risks and pollution, especially in developing countries.
As a result, Iran’s pollution, a decades-old problem, has progressively increased in recent years, claiming several lives each year and damaging healthy lungs.
Tehran, the capital of Iran, is located in the north of the country with a population of about 8.5 million. The population can reach over 12.5 million during the day, with people from nearby cities commuting daily to Tehran for work, Tehran Times wrote.
Topography and climate add to the pollution problem. Tehran is at a high altitude and is surrounded by the Alborz Mountain Range, which traps polluted air. Temperature inversion, which is a phenomenon particularly occurring during the winter months, prevents the pollutants from being diluted.
However, the study suggests that rapid population growth (partially due to migration from other cities), industrial development, urbanization, and increasing fuel consumption are pressure points for clean air in Tehran. To design an effective approach to air pollution management, it is important to diagnose the problem, determine its sources, and identify affordable and sustainable solutions.
According to a report by World Bank published in April 2018, there are more than 17 million vehicular trips per day in Tehran, and many of the vehicles have outdated technology. Thus, the air in Tehran is amongst the most polluted in the world.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 12.6 million people die from environmental health risks annually. Air pollution has become the fourth highest risk factor for premature deaths as one in 10 deaths worldwide can be linked to air pollution exposure. Though the challenge of pollution is a global one, the impacts are overwhelmingly felt in developing countries. About 95 percent of adults and children affected by pollution-related illnesses live in low and middle-income countries.
The study asserts that Tehran is one of the most air polluted cities in the world. Tehran is ranked 12th among 26 megacities in terms of ambient PM10 levels. After Cairo, Tehran is the most polluted non-Asian megacity. In 2016, the annual ambient level of PM10 was estimated at 77 micrograms per cubic meter. This is almost four times the WHO’s recommended threshold of 20 micrograms per cubic meter.
Among numerous reasons behind air pollution the transport sector, mainly buses operating on fossil fuels, can be deemed as the main guilty party.
Globally transportation accounts for about 21 percent of greenhouse gasses. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicated that transport sector emissions of carbon dioxide will increase by 92 percent between 1990 and 2020. Most importantly the age of the transport fleet, the technology used within it and the extent to which such vehicles are maintained as well as the availability of appropriate fuel can decide the amount of emission attributed to the transport sector.
According to WHO, air pollution is one of the leading causes of cancer. The fact is that people are more exposed to air pollutants in industrialized areas and metropolises where exhaust gas and auto-industrial emission can create a hazardous situation. This has increased health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, stroke, asthma, allergy and cancer.
While Iran is fully determined to end its relying on heavily-subsidized fossil fuels through the implementation of a targeted subsidy plan known as ‘subsidy reform plan’, it has concentrated efforts to put CNG cars and electric vehicles on its roads.
Up to now, the Iranian transportation and fuel management employees have tried to replace gas and diesel vehicles with CNGs vehicles to great success, especially in the public transportation sector.
But such replacements seem to be insufficient as the air pollution is getting worse particularly in major cities, and the main culprit is low-standard gasoline as well as overproduction of cars by domestic manufacturers.
The low emission zone (LEZ) is a defined area where access by certain polluting vehicles is restricted or deterred with the aim of improving the air quality. This may favor vehicles such as hybrid electric vehicles, or zero-emission vehicles such as all-electric vehicles.
An electric car is an automobile that is propelled by one electric motor or more, using electrical energy stored in batteries or another energy storage device. A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to move the vehicle.
Recently the representatives of Tehran in Majlis have sent a letter to President Hassan Rouhani calling on him to pay special attention to the issue of air pollution in the capital. 35 Tehran representatives in Majlis out of total 290 lawmakers in the parliament have called on the President to order the related organizations to find due solution to the air pollution question and make serious decisions about it, MNA wrote.
To settle the problem, Tehran municipality has planned to bring hundreds electric motorcycles and hybrid taxis to the streets of the capital.
ON July 2018, Deputy Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade of the Islamic Republic of Iran Barat Ghobadian said that production of hybrid and electric vehicles has been put at top of the ministry's agenda.
Most hybrid vehicles produced so far are of gasoline-electric type, although some car manufacturing companies have also produced hybrid diesel-electric cars, he maintained.
Manufacturing hybrid and electric cars has been emphasized by the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade due to the environmental protection and sustainable development.
For this purpose, a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed and sealed between the Ministry of Industry for Research and Education, Academic Center for Education, Research and Cultural Activities and private sector, Ghobadian added.
To tackle all these problems different organizations must get involved to formulate coherent policies to reduce this persisting predicament.
For a metropolis like Tehran, where at large number of people dies each year from diseases caused by air pollution, there are no other options but to put aside the vehicles with internal combustion engines and shift to the vehicles with zero emissions.