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Tehran's Milad Tower — Photo: Hamed Saber
Tehran's northern suburbs, in the foothills of the Alborz mountains, used to be a summer refuge from the heat of downtown Tehran, mainly for their numerous gardens and abundant trees.
The rich used to live there before 1979, and some still do. But over the past 20 years or so, the gardens have gone — as have most of the trees — and given way to a jungle of high-rise buildings comparable to any megalopolis. The Islamic Republic of Iran's super rich now live on the top floors of the highest towers in northern Tehran, where they can breathe the cleaner air for which they have paid exorbitant amounts.
But these towers, some of which were built with scant regard for the city's building norms, have exacerbated the capital's already abundant dust particles and air pollution.
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"Every hectare of woodland absorbs 7 to 7.5 tons of dust every year," reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd quoted environmental advisor Esma'il Kahrom as saying. "Now in Tehran, we have replaced this plant cover with buildings. Tehran has faced an environmental crisis for a long time now. It has become a glass and steel jungle. It is not as attractive as it was before."
Not only do buildings not absorb the particles in the air, but building material such as cement actually generates dust, Tehran engineering consultant Mehdi Hashemzadeh told the newspaper.
Kahrom implied that the decline in quality of life could finally put an end to the building frenzy, as most of the more recent buildings have had difficulty finding customers.
"When Tehran becomes less desirable, demand will fall," he says. "When someone makes a building and then finds 60% of it is empty, he'll stop building high-rise towers."
Speculative land use isn't just a Tehran problem. Government news agency IRNA reported separately recently about the "mushrooming villas that swallow the gardens of Hamadan," a western city that Iran's environmental protection agency describes as "the green city," so far anyway.