TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian authorities have declared a two-day public holiday in the capital and some other cities in an attempt to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution, media reported Tuesday.
Tehran will all but shut down Wednesday and Thursday as public offices, banks, schools and universities will all be closed. Cars are already only being allowed on the roads on alternate days, depending on their number plates.
Tehran has been experiencing alarming levels of air pollution for more than a week and officials made last Wednesday a public holiday in their first attempt to tackle the problem.
But despite reduced traffic, which continued into an annual religious holiday Thursday and the weekly day of rest on Friday, pollution levels have remained high due to a weather inversion which has stopped traffic and industrial emissions dissipating.
Emergency hospital admissions have increased by 19 percent, with people suffering severe breathing difficulties, the Health Ministry said.
Pollution is a serious problem in Tehran, which sprawls at the foot of the Middle East’s highest mountains. Criss-crossed with urban highways, its population of some 9 million swells to 12 million during the day as people flock in to work.
“Closing organizations and schools is not an effective solution. We need to have more effective plans to curb pollution in this metropolis,” Health Minister Marzieh Vahidi Dastjerdi said.
Some people have voiced fears about the economic impact of closing down major cities.
“These holidays cut the economy’s links with the international economy for five days which has harmful effects,” said Asadollah Asgaroladi, head of the Chamber of Commerce’s export committee.
Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Ramin Mostafavi; Editing by Jon Hemming