Heavy pol­lu­tion shuts schools in Tehran

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Tehran of­fi­cials shut schools yes­ter­day as the first of the win­ter’s heavy pol­lu­tion hit the Ira­nian cap­i­tal. A blan­ket of chok­ing brown-white smog de­scended on the city on Sun­day, block­ing out the view of the moun­tains that line its north­ern edge and lead­ing many of its 14 mil­lion res­i­dents to re­treat in­doors or don face masks in the street. The level of the dead­li­est PM2.5 par­ti­cles hit 156 yes­ter­day-more than three times the level con­sid­ered safe by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. “Kinder­gartens and pri­mary schools are closed yes­ter­day in Tehran and most of the cities of the prov­ince,” the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion an­nounced, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial agency Irna.

Of­fi­cials ex­tended traf­fic re­stric­tions that al­ter­nate cars with odd and even li­cence plates in two cen­tral parts of the city, and de­ployed am­bu­lances to wait in the busiest and dirt­i­est ar­eas. Tehran mayor Mo­ham­mad Bagher Ghal­ibaf rode the metro to work on Sun­day in a bid to en­cour­age peo­ple to use pub­lic trans­port. De­spite hav­ing around 100 sta­tions, Ghal­ibaf says the metro is not suf­fi­ciently funded by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, and Tehran has some of the world’s worst traf­fic con­ges­tion.

Pol­lu­tion has be­come a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball in re­cent years, with con­ser­va­tives and re­formists blam­ing each other for the prob­lem. Hard­lin­ers reg­u­larly ac­cuse the re­formist vice-pres­i­dent Mas­soumeh Ebtekar, who heads the en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion, of not do­ing enough. The ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive daily Vatane Em­rooz said yes­ter­day that 70 per­cent of deaths in Tehran were linked to pol­lu­tion. The pol­lu­tion has been build­ing for six con­sec­u­tive days and is ex­pected to con­tinue un­til Wed­nes­day when fore­cast­ers hope winds will move the stag­nant air, an of­fi­cial told state tele­vi­sion.

Res­i­dents were ad­vised to stay in­doors un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary, with warn­ings that pol­lu­tion is par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous for the el­derly, preg­nant, chil­dren and those with ex­ist­ing res­pi­ra­tory and heart con­di­tions. Sand and ce­ment fac­to­ries around Tehran were also shut­tered. Every year, Tehran suf­fers some of the worst pol­lu­tion in the world when cold weather traps the vast lev­els of ex­haust from the city’s 10 mil­lion age­ing cars and mo­tor­bikes.

Two per­ma­nent zones of traf­fic re­stric­tions in­tro­duced in 1979 and 2005 have failed to rec­tify the sprawl­ing city’s poor air qual­ity. Lo­cal car­mak­ers have shown lit­tle in­ter­est in in­tro­duc­ing cleaner en­gines, while for­eign firms have been kept out by in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions. In 2014, al­most 400 peo­ple were hos­pi­tal­ized with heart and res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems caused by heavy pol­lu­tion in Tehran, with nearly 1,500 oth­ers re­quir­ing treat­ment. The health min­istry es­ti­mated that pol­lu­tion con­trib­uted to the pre­ma­ture deaths of 4,500 peo­ple in Tehran in 2012 and about 80,000 across the countr. —AFP

TEHRAN: A gen­eral view taken from Western Tehran shows a blan­ket of brown­white smog cov­er­ing the city as the first of the win­ter’s heavy pol­lu­tion hit the Ira­nian cap­i­tal yes­ter­day. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.