Contact the Green PartyFarsi linksFarsi newsFarsi platformEnglish home pageFarsi statementsFarsi home pageEnglish newsEnglish statementsEnglish platformEnglish links

Smog Forces Iranians To Wear Masks

By Afshin Valinejad

TEHRAN, Iran, December 28, 1999 (AP) President Mohammad Khatami is ready to pay the price to clean up Tehran, a newspaper reported Tuesday as more of the capital's residents donned masks against thick smog.

An Iranian mother and her daughter wear anti-pollution masks in a Tehran street Tuesday Dec. 28, 1999, as air pollution reached critical levels. President Mohammad Khatami is ready to pay the price to clean up Tehran, a newspaper reported Tuesday as more and more of the capital's residents donned masks against the pollution. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Hamshahri newspaper reported that Khatami had allocated funds to combat the problem, but did not say how much. Tehran's mayor had earlier pegged the cleanup cost at $2.2 billion.

"This situation is no longer tolerable," the newspaper quoted Khatami as saying.

Tens of thousands of Tehran's residents are wearing masks to protect themselves from the heavy smog much of it blamed on cars that has hung over the capital for a month. State radio has warned that the pollution is expected to get worse over the next few days.

The sun has barely been visible in Tehran in the mornings. Residents complain of itchy eyes and scratchy throats.

Radio and television stations have been broadcasting hourly warnings asking residents to stay indoors and to use public transportation instead of driving.

Tehran Mayor Morteza Alviri has said the World Bank, Japanese experts and Iranian environmentalists soon would launch a 15-year, $2.2 billion project to reduce the pollutants in the capital's air.

Newspapers have been criticizing the government for failing to come to grips with the problem.

"The heavy pollution is causing fatigue among Tehran's population. And it's causing the most problems for people with heart problems, asthma and skin diseases," said Shohreh Minaie, a nurse at a private clinic.

Many residents with heart conditions and asthma have been hospitalized.

Earlier this month, the government closed kindergartens and elementary schools and barred motorists from the city center for several days.

The authorities have not given pollution statistics this year. Last year, when several thousand schools were shut down, the pollution was more than six times the acceptable level set by the World Health Organization.

According to official estimates, cars account for 75 percent of Tehran's pollution. Most cars in Tehran are more than 20 years old and lack the exhaust filters of modern vehicles.