Air pollution in Tehran (November 2023)

Air Pollution Crisis Worsens As Iranian Winter Bites

Wednesday, 11/29/2023

Air pollution concerns in Iran worsen as winter approaches and authorities warn of an impending escalation.

The use of dirty low-quality fuels to produce electricity amidst a natural gas shortage raises risks as winter months require ever rising heating demands for families across the country.

The National Crisis Management Center this week forecast a surge in air pollution levels across industrial hubs such as Tehran, Karaj, Arak, Esfahan, and Tabriz, coupled with a deterioration in air quality.

Government officials point to factory and industrial smokestacks, vehicle emissions, and fossil fuel combustion gases as primary contributors to the pollution crisis in Tehran. However, the burning of mazut, a heavy, low-quality fuel oil, has emerged as a significant factor in the air pollution dilemma, also used in industrial settings.

The country usually faces natural gas shortages in winter months, because of higher home consumption. As a result, the decaying energy sector resorts to using mazut with an immediate impact on air pollution. During the winter months, the situation is worse because colder and drier air traps more pollution, making it both more visible and more dangerous.

A recent report by Etemad claimed Tehran saw only two clear days in the last year. The report also highlighted a surge in emergency room visits by Tehran residents due to polluted air.

Iran needs around $50 billion in investments to increase its natural gas production, although it has the world’s second largest reserves. 

Figures in a BP report last year showed that in 2020 Iran produced 37 terawatts of its electricity from dirty fuels, but in 2021 it reached 49 terawatts. As a result, Iran’s greenhouse gas emissions reached the historic level of 893 million tons, an increase of 4.5 percent over 2020.

Iran is the sixth highest greenhouse gas contributor in the world, after China, the United States, India, Japan and Russia. Germany, with an 18-times bigger economy produces 28 percent less air pollution.

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