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Tehran residents give mixed welcome to anti-pollution day

TEHRAN, Iran, January 19, 2000 (AFP) - Few of Tehran's residents took part in the anti-pollution day Wednesday aimed at highlighting means of reducing the severe air pollution from which the city suffers.

The "Anti-Pollution Day", an initiative of the Organisation for the Protection of the environment, appeared to have little impact, with airborne pollution and the usual traffic jams evident in the city just as on any other Wednesday, which is the last day of the Iranian working week.

In certain neighbourhoods, drivers stopped their engines for three minutes in response to an appeal by the organisers for a "day without cars".

In other areas, school children took part in gatherings to draw the authorities' attention to the need to take action against the growing pollution problem in the city, the organisers said. Similar activities were scheduled to take place in other large cities across the country, which are also victim to growing atmospheric pollution problems.

Tehran is considered one of the most polluted cities in the world with car exhausts blamed as one of the main causes of the problem. The clouds of pollution hanging over the city were so severe in December that authorities were forced to shut schools on two occasions that month.

Residents of the city were asked to public transport to get to work but the invitation went largely unheeded, with the usual traffic jams hitting the southern and central neighbourhoods of the city. Dozens of extra buses were laid on for residents by various state organisations.

At the beginning of the month, the government adopted an action plan in the fight against atmospheric pollution in Tehran, which demands regular inspections for vehicles.

The action plan was discussed Sunday by the cabinet, chaired by President Mohammed Khatami.