Iranians Should Drive Less to Reduce Pollution, Expert Says

By Azadeh Karimi

While current air quality regulations and emission standards are much more stringent than 20 years ago, there has been a concerted effort by most governments around the world to encourage their population to drive less, Behzad Ashjaei, the secretary of the Department of Environment’s Office for Motor Vehicles Registration has said. Mr. Ashjaei made those remarks late last month, on the annual World Car-Free Day (WCD).

“People must realize that owning a car does not mean they have to drive it every day,” Ashjaei was quoted by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) as saying. “The car culture will not change organically. The government needs to take more effective measures by developing the country’s transport systems and urging people to drive less.”



FILE PHOTO: Motorists travel on a highway in Tehran as the city is covered in dust.REUTERS./

“Iran ranks 72nd among countries with the highest number of motor vehicles [cars, vans, and trucks but not motorcycles and other two-wheelers] per 1,000 people,” Ashjaei added. “There are four cars for every 10 people in Tehran. There are twice as many cars for the same number of people in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Vienna, but none of those cities are as polluted as Tehran. Besides tougher clean air rules and regulations, citizens of those cities have also changed their driving habits. Unfortunately, there has not been a concerted effort to change the car culture in Iran.”

Ashjaei noted: “According to a report by the World Bank, the annual financial cost of air pollution to the population of Greater Tehran is about $2.6 billion. That comes to $300 a person or $1,200 for a family of four. The residents of Tehran could save much money if they were to drive less and use public transport instead. Many cities, including Tehran, however, do not have enough buses and trains to accommodate their residents. Therefore, we need a two-pronged approach of changing the driving culture and improving the public transport system in Iran.”

Speaking about the process used to determine whether domestically manufactured and assembled cars meet the emission standards, Ashjaei said: “The tests identify only five percent of the cars with problems. The other 95 percent of vehicles which do not meet the emission standards go undetected. We cannot be 100 percent sure that domestic products are not defective.”



FILE PHOTO: Iranian-made cars are seen in a parking at carmaker Iran Khodro, west of Tehran. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

“The Department of Environment monitors domestic car manufacturing to ensure that vehicles meet the emission standards,” Ashjaei added. “The agency continually improves its testing procedures. It has been more vigilant since last year. However, the responsibility ultimately rests with the car manufacturers.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]