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News > Iran

US Sanctions Deprive Iranians of Breathing Fresh Air

  • A woman covers her nose to avoid the risks of air pollution.

    A woman covers her nose to avoid the risks of air pollution. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 3 January 2023

Sanctions force people to prolong the use of older vehicles that burn fuel less efficiently, while making it impossible for Iran to obtain equipment and technology to reduce emissions.

With the arrival of the cold season, the air pollution in Iran's capital Tehran has reached an alarming level and is hazardous for the health of local residents. Domestic and foreign experts pointed out that under the years-long U.S. sanctions, the forced use of old vehicles, which should have been scrapped long ago, is the cause of the terrible air quality in Tehran.


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Over the past weeks, Tehran's local authorities decided to shut down school and university classes for some days and switched to online learning.

Abed Maleki, deputy director of Civil Affairs Coordination of Tehran Governorate, announced on Monday the continuation of remote working of sensitive groups of employees, including pregnant women, employees aging above 50, and those who have heart, lung, respiratory and rheumatic diseases as well as ones with diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer problems, according to official IRNA news agency.

Maleki said that based on the approvals of the air pollution emergency working group, universities and all educational levels of Tehran will continue online learning for two more days until Wednesday, while sports activities in open spaces are also canceled.

The even-and-odd plans for motorists are implemented as traffic rationing measures under which private vehicles with registration numbers ending with an odd digit will be allowed on the streets on odd dates and those with an even digit on even dates.

Besides, a daily permit license to enter the restricted traffic zones in Tehran will not be issued by Tehran Municipality until Wednesday, Maleki said, urging the citizens to refrain from unnecessary activities outdoors.


Abbas Shahsavandi, the head of the air health and climate change department of Iran's Health Ministry, pointed out that the traffic of old cars and diesel motorcycles is the main reason behind Tehran's air pollution. There are many clunker vehicles and diesel motorcycles in Tehran, which must be removed from the consumption cycle, Shahsavandi said.

Also, Abdollah Motevalli, deputy director of Iran's Standards and Quality Inspection Company, said that some 83 percent of air pollution in Tehran and 70 percent in other Iranian big cities are caused by vehicles, according to the report.

On Dec. 20, 2022, a group of UN human rights experts announced that "it is no surprise that Tehran is one of the world's most polluted cities. U.S. sanctions force people to prolong the use of older vehicles that burn fuel less efficiently, while making it impossible for Iran to obtain equipment and technology to reduce vehicle emissions."

The sanctions also prevent Iranian scientists from engaging in joint environmental research projects abroad, and prevent Iranians from accessing online databases and courses about environmental issues and sustainability, they pointed out.


On Monday, Mojtaba Shafiee, managing director of the Transport and Traffic Organization of Tehran Municipality, stressed that new ideas are needed to tackle the traffic and air pollution in Tehran.

Elaborating on the effect of the even-and-odd plan from the door of the homes on reducing air pollution, he noted that if the plan is implemented correctly, it will be effective in reducing air pollution.

He also announced the holding of the 19th International Conference on Transportation and Traffic Engineering in Tehran in March, with its focus on public and smart transportation among other topics.

Regarding the development of cycling routes in the capital, he stated that the use of shared bicycles is one of the main models of traffic management around the world that should be considered in Tehran.

In the meantime, Motevalli said that all motor vehicles used by government, public and non-government sectors are required to obtain a technical examination certificate, which can be highly effective in reducing air pollution, optimizing fuel consumption and car safety, and consequently the health of citizens. 


Abed Maleki
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