Sun Jan 3, 2016 03:10AM
A picture shows a heavily polluted skyline of the Iranian capital Tehran, on December 30, 2015. (AFP)
A picture shows a heavily polluted skyline of the Iranian capital Tehran, on December 30, 2015. (AFP)

One of the major factors that contribute to increase in green-house gasses and make the air suffocating and hazardous in big cities is the exhaust emission generated by fossil-fuel-based heating systems, conditioning the indoor air in public and state buildings. Thus, if we set the indoor temperature to a lesser degree, a lesser amount of fossil fuel is used accordingly, and a lesser amount of green-house gasses enters the air. Based on this simple, yet effective, technique, Director of Iran's Department of the Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar has recently raised the "18-degree Celsius Challenge."

In a post on social media, Ebtekar called for a national movement to lower the temperature of buildings in metropolises across the country to at most to 18 degrees Celsius in corridors and indoor places and to 21 degrees in rooms.

The post also featured letters addressing the vice presidents, ministers and all governors to accept the challenge.

She also called for a regular checkup of the heating systems and asked offices to turn off heaters on holidays in order to mitigate the emission to minimum, urging all Iranians to follow the movement and cut the persisting air pollution that has plagued country’s metropolises for the past months.

Director of Iran's Department of the Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar delivers a speech during the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), on November 30, 2015, at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of the French capital Paris. (AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in response to the challenge, thanked her on his twitter account and called the challenge an absolute necessity for combating pollution that is present in the air, which “we and our children” breathe.

So far, Iran's Vice-President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi and Iranian Minister of Communication and IT Mahmoud Vaezi have accepted the challenge, further calling on other administration officials to embrace the initiative. 

Unhealthy air quality forced the country's authorities to close all schools and kindergartens in the capital Tehran for days last week.

Iran’s metropolises have been suffering for years from the hazardous air pollution caused mainly by exhaust fumes, particularly during the cold season that increases as emissions fail to rise above cold air (called inversion). Had it not been for the recent rainfalls in Tehran, the dark blanket of the polluted air would have kept on suffocating the city.