Ahvaz, buried in sand and soil
Rapporteur- Farbod Dehghani: the people of Ahwaz are facing with a chronic problem which has become a daily crisis. Domestic drought, the volume of Karun River water decrease, scrubbing and dust that entered the country from neighboring countries, have make the breathing difficult for people in the province has led to the prevalence of respiratory diseases among the people of the region.
People of Ahvaz in recent days also witnessed a sharp decline in air quality and had difficulty in breathing. In addition, due to dust entering the motor power supply in Ahwaz and need to wash the engine, much of Ahvaz, last night spent without electricity. In addition to air pollution problems and power outages, water quality has been severely affected people and is totally useless.
Despite vows of cooperation between Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum and its National Standard Organization, years of negligence and shortcomings in urban management and miscommunication between the two institutions have complicated the process of combatting pollution. Iran’s National Standard Organization has declared the quality of gasoline a “political issue” today and has emphasized the strategic value of imported gasoline. Starting in mid-February, due to concerns over the possibility of low-quality gasoline entering Iran from the north, the country has been importing gasoline solely through the south. Meanwhile, Tehran has announced that this spring, domestic oil refineries will provide cleaner fuel in 17 major Iranian cities.
In a tweet late last year, Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president and head of its Environmental Protection Organization, responded to my tweet of concern over Tehran’s pollution: “The air you breathe in Tehran is now better than 2012, you are no longer exposed to carcinogenic levels of benzene, aromatics.”
But many believe that this is simply not enough.
Ebtekar also mentioned Hassan Rouhani’s plans to make “a transition to a green economy” in the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris. In an interview over two years ago, Ebtekar told me “we lost eight years,” pointing out the irresponsible decisions and actions made under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.
According to an Iranian environment expert who specializes in clean air and pollution in Tehran but who declined to be named in this article, Iranian citizens don’t put in as much effort as needed to combat pollution. He said, “Mismanagement is an undeniable problem in Iran’s major cities, specially in Tehran. But people don’t want to compromise, either. Many simply don’t trust the government and some take no responsibility for their own environment and expect the government to do everything.” Others believe, however, that the government’s expectations are not always reasonable. One such expectation, promoted through social media, was Ebtekar’s recent “18 degree challenge” for people to keep their homes at an average temperature of 18 degrees celsius (64.4 Fahrenheit) to fight pollution.
Sara, a resident of Karaj (one of Iran’s largest—and most polluted—cities), says that this is absolutely impractical. “Maybe that’s why it’s called a challenge,” she conceded. “But with two small children in the house, the last thing I want is the house to get cold. My kids bring a lot of germs from daycare. I can’t add the risk of their catching cold at home, too. If they do, either me or my husband has to take a day off work to stay home with them.”(1)