pollution in tehran…

7 06 2007

[By Shawhin] One of the reasons I decided to become a civil engineer was to learn about ways to reduce pollution in Tehran.  The pollution in Tehran is such that schools are shut down for some days a year.


I think infrastructure related solutions fall in two categories: 1. cleaner vehicles and, 2. less congestion. There are efforts going by the government to address option 1 – cleaner vehicles – through car trading programs, etc.  How effective this is and to what extent it is being implemented, I’m curious to know and would invite feedback.  Option 2 – less congestion – however, is more interesting to me. 

Reducing congestion comprises:

  • providing/enhancing alternatives to driving,
  • managing/reducing population concentration,
  • implementing policies that limit where and when people can drive (a tough one),
  • making sure your city is planned around pedestrians and not cars (which I think Tehran is good at… to some extent),
  • … others?

Tehran is working on addressing the first bullet through the relatively new metro system (http://www.tehranmetro.com/farsi/index.asp and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tehran_Metro) and an established bus transit system.  The metro system operates near capacity in some locations and has plans for expansion. And there is an extensive bus network with exclusive bus lanes in some areas.  I’d have to find some good statistics before I can say much about how well the buses are doing. Aside from metro and buses, large cities around the world also use light rail (i.e. street cars).  Light rail is nice because it is clean technology and you can either share the road with cars or make the track exclusive to the street cars, making the most of travel time.  On the flip side, there’s a lot of construction and planning involved in implementing a light rail system.  Similar to light rail is monorail – which Tehran has explored (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tehran_Monorail). Personally, in Tehran – an old and historic city – I think monorail will be out of place and contribute to an old cities confused self image.  Light rail on the other hand can be classic looking and even fit in well with an old town.  After all before cars took over the streets, we had trolleys and cable cars.

Kholaaseh, alternatives to driving are ways to counter pollution and traffic congestion, but perhaps for Tehran it is more important to avoid the issue altogether by better managing and reducing population in the big city…




13 responses

13 06 2007

I don’t know how light rail would work in a city like Tehran. I think light rail would take another lane from major avenues and streets and would increase traffic as a result. Unless they make highways wider. Is this true?
As a resident of Tehran, I would prefer metro over other means of transportation, if it gets expanded and connects different parts of the city together (like New York city). In that case, I will personally see no use in driving and will always take the metro to work or other places as driving takes much longer with this traffic.

13 06 2007
pollution in Tehran… continued « Tehran Shake

[…] in Tehran… continued 13 06 2007 Continuing on the discussion in “pollution in Tehran…”, here are my two cents on the second bullet: managing/reducing population […]

14 06 2007

Thanks for the comment, Shabnam. You’re right, a light rail line down a major avenue or highway would give less room for cars and may make it even more congested. On the flip side though, with enough light rail vehicles, you will have less people in their cars on a given street. Now, I’m curious to know if and where there is a break-even point that would make a given road/highway not benefit from light rail.
Also, aside from the issue of traffic, the light rail gives a lot of people the option to get to where they want to go quicker and without a car. I think for Tehranis this would be a very welcome option in terms of time savings and toward less pollution.

20 04 2009

I’m doing a 4000 word essay for the International Bacculerate Diploma on the geographics of Tehran and how it related to environmental issues such as pollution. I was wondering, does anyone have any information on the moutains surrounding Tehran affecting the amount of pollution?

Thanks a lot

21 04 2009

Hi Shahrzad, I actually don’t know the specifics of how the mountains work with respect to pollution in Tehran. Other important factors, I imagine, would be prevailing wind directions, height of mountains, temperature profile (e.g. how high does pollution rise at given times in the year because of changes in temperature and therefore changes in air density, and is that height always lower than the elevation of the mountains to the north of Tehran?). Just from memory, I don’t remember any significant wind in Tehran similar to the Bay Area where the there is strong wind at different times in the day… so maybe the mountains in Tehran don’t have a tremendous impact on the air pollution because the air is relatively stagnant… etc, etc – I clearly don’t know much about the topic, but these are thoughts on how I would start my research. Anyhow, good luck, and if you have the time to come back and share your findings, I’d be interested to hear!

5 09 2009

Thanks Shawhin,
I had the opportunity to travel to Tehran this summer to gather some information as I am currently in the process of putting together the essay.
I’d love to share the information I’ve gathered once it’s complete.
Thanks again,

5 09 2009

That’s great news. It must have been a really interesting experience! I’m curious to learn more, so yes please do share.

What was your research about? What was your method?

5 09 2009

well, it’s a 4000 word highschool IB paper .I have many primary sources and some secondary. I started by doing some background research on Tehran’s history, geography, demographics at university libraries. I basically took general information, and made connections to the issue of air pollution in tehran and geography and population is the ‘base’ of the issue.
When I went to Tehran, I took surveys asking people about how pollution affects them. I processed the raw data into graphs to show how this information affects Tehranis and how their age plays a role. I made general relationships between CO emissions and vehicle speed, CO emissions and wind speed and CO emissiosn and human death. and I found the correlations between those factors which intensify tehran’s air pollution very interesting. After talking to some city officials, I learned that the Alborz Mountains that surround Tehran have an effect on the air pollution levels in Tehran. Think about Mexico City and how it’s a valley. Well, Tehran is quite similar. Mexico City has really high air pollution, one factor being its geographical location which is very similar to Tehran’s geographical location. So the mountains stop the predominant winds (that blow west to east) of tehran, from ‘cleanising’ tehran’s air. Since many industries (like Iran Khodro) are on the west, all the pollution is carried to the east, where it is harbored and that is where the highest concnetrations of CO is. I actually went to see industries at the west. there are hundreds of kms of industries beside eachother at the outskirts of Tehran. It was very interesting 🙂
Now I’m looking for some suggestions to how the air pollution can be improved and some past attempts that may or may not have worked out.

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