Sandstorms and dangerously polluted air led to the closure of schools and some government offices in Iran’s capital Tehran as well as several other cities across the country on Monday. 

Abed Maleki, a senior member of the city’s governor-general’s office, announced the closures Sunday evening, and cautioned vulnerable residents to take precautions. Banks and the Tehran Stock Exchange would remain open, he added. 

According to reports, several cities from the North Khorasan province to the southwestern Khuzestan province are also shut down, with many citizens decrying the government’s discrimination in announcing the closures. The level of pollution is much higher in eastern and southern cities but the government rarely shuts down schools and businesses. 

Tehran was logged as the most polluted city in the world in April with air quality hazardous and visibility very low largely due to the very high level of airborne particles. The capital’s pollution is mainly blamed on poor government policies, desertification and low water levels, as well as climate change that has intensified sandstorms.

Since mid-March, massive dust storms have hit various parts of the country, causing a health crisis that has forced the government to shut down schools and government offices in some cities and cancel outdoor sporting events on multiple occasions. 

Dust storms, originating in both Iran and neighboring countries, have also increased markedly in recent years in several Iranian provinces, notably Khuzestan, Kermanshah, and Sistan-Baluchestan. 

Moreover, the usage of highly polluting diesel and mazut fuels in power plants jumped in Iran in 2021 on top of increases in previous years.

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