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Air pollution alert issued in Tehran over choking dust storm

Source: Mehr News Agency, Tehran

Tehran's air pollution reached an alarming level on Tuesday after a heavy dust storm enveloped the metropolis, making citizens' lives a misery.

Related Article: Photos: Tehran Engulfed by Polluted Air

Rasoul Ali Ashrafipour, the director of the Tehran Provincial Directorate of Environment Protection, said on Tuesday that the air pollution had reached an "alarming" level, warning about an imminent increase in the amount of floating dust particles in the air.

"It is predicted that the dust storm in Tehran will not dissipate until Thursday. In addition, there is the possibility that the air pollution in Tehran will reach an emergency level on Wednesday," he added.

An official at Iran Meteorological Organization said on Tuesday that the dust storm had come from Iraq.

He also stated that the windy weather forecast for Tuesday would increase air pollution.

The Persian service of ISNA reported on the same day that all hospitals in Tehran had been put on alert.

Heavy dust storms also shrouded certain western and southwestern provinces of Iran, making breathing difficult for people.

Health officials have warned about the aggravation of respiratory diseases and advised the elderly and children to stay indoors.

Experts say the dust storms descend on Iran from the deserts and dried-up ponds of Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Many ponds which were once located in the arid and desert regions stretching from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea to Iran have gone dry over the years.

This ongoing desertification process has greatly increased the number of dust storms in the region, and every year heavy dust storms envelope more than half of the country.

In 2009, Iran and Iraq signed an agreement according to which Iraq should have poured oil derivative mulch on deserts, but Iraq did not fulfill its commitment.

Later, a number of lawmakers representing constituencies in southern and western Iran lodged a motion warning the foreign minister and the president about the recurrent dust storms afflicting citizens in those areas.

However, the government so far has not taken any serious measure to tackle the issue.

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