Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Iranian air pollution: death by petrol

Today the BBC reported that nearly 10,000 people had died as a result of air pollution levels in Tehran.

Iran smog 'kills 3,600 in month'
Air pollution is estimated to have killed nearly 10,000 people in Tehran over a one-year period, including 3,600 in a month, Iranian officials say.

Most of the deaths were caused by heart attacks and respiratory illnesses brought on by smog, they said.

The scale of the problem led one senior official to say living in the Iranian capital was like "collective suicide".

Cheap fuel encourages car use in Iran, correspondents say, and many vehicles do not meet global emissions standards.

"It is a very serious and lethal crisis, a collective suicide," the director of Tehran's clean air committee, Mohammad Hadi Heydarzadeh, told an Iranian newspaper.

"A real revolution is needed to resolve this problem."

He said air quality had worsened and was linked to some 3,600 deaths in October. Many of the deaths were caused by heart attacks brought on by the air pollution.

New figures showed a sharp rise in pollution-related deaths in Iran, where 9,900 people died of pollution in the previous Iranian year (March 2005 to March 2006).

The latest assessments were based on World Bank figures which extrapolate mortality rates according to certain levels of pollution.

Planetearth also report on this story "Air Pollution Blamed for Killing Thousands of Iranians"

A couple of points to note:

1. Figures based on World Bank estimates - hmmm.

2. Petrol costs about nine cent per litre - now THAT is cheap fuel. Result - a lot of cars and a lot of driving. Iranians burn up to 70 million litres of gasoline each day apparently. That is A LOT of petrol.

The reasons for the high death rate is therefore clear. Of course, as expected or perhaps in the case of Iran not so expected, Western multinationals are not far behind:

Iran has turned into a regional carmaking hub with foreign firms such as Renault, Peugeot and Hyundai signing production deals in the Islamic Republic.

Of course, this could be seen as good news if Iranians then upgrade to cleaner and more efficient cars produced by Western multinationals where Western emission levels will be adhered to.

Finally, we have been planning an academic paper for some while looking at pollution in Iran and its determinants at the industry or firm level. As you can imagine, data is proving somewhat hard to obtain. It is early days though and we believe Iran is a fascinating country that is crying out for some good environmental analysis.

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