I travel to my native country of Iran every few years and find it immensely interesting. It's easy for people living in the West to get caught up in the political news and commentaries and forget that at the heart of every society there are people just like themselves. For me, it’s like being a foreigner in an exotic land with one big benefit, I fit in pretty easily. I can speak the language and understand the culture, so I can immerse myself in the society and remain rather invisible.
But not all aspects of my trips to Iran are positive. Perhaps the most disturbing is witnessing the city I grew up in, Tehran, being destroyed by so called progress. To be sure, Tehran was never an orderly city. Over-population and pollution have always been a curse as far back as I can remember, but it’s plain to see that these effects have snowballed to unbearable levels. I often found myself wondering how people can live in this smog-filled city. Asthma and other respiratory diseases are at alarming levels particularly among children and the elderly. I saw many people walking around with face masks, a testament to a deteriorating living conditions in Tehran.
Unbridled construction and mass migration from all corners of Iran have made this city a nightmare to live in. Cars and motorcycles rule supreme and many of them are not even close to an acceptable emission status. A trip that should take no more than half hour, takes three hours to complete. The city is chocking in its own smog and an ugly haze blankets the city all the time. Is this the price of progress? Old-timers recall a city with pure air and water. Sadly all that is lost, and there is no end in sight for this progress. Tehran seems determined to continue on its suicidal path.