Identifying drivers affecting air quality in metropolitan areas of developing countries: evidence from Tehran metropolitan area

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2023 Jul;30(35):83485-83494. doi: 10.1007/s11356-023-28274-6. Epub 2023 Jun 21.


Environmental issues and the significant reduction of air quality in the metropolitan areas of developing countries have become chronic challenges. While the impacts of many reasons such as the rapid trend of urbanization, lacking sustainable thinking in urban planning approaches, and urban sprawl have been explored in previous literature, the role of political economy, especially the structure based on the rentier economy, in the change of air quality as an environmental challenge in the metropolitan areas of developing countries has received little attention. To fill this gap, this study focuses on the role of the rentier economy and identifies the drivers based on it that have a tremendous impact on the air quality in Tehran metropolitan area, Iran. To this end, using the Grounded Theory (GT) foundation database and two-round Delphi survey, the opinions of 19 experts were used to identify and explain major drivers that impact air quality in Tehran. Our findings revealed that nine major drivers have an increasing impact on the air quality in the metropolitan area of Tehran. These drivers considering the dominance of the rentier economy are interpreted as the lack of powerful local governance, the rental economy, centralized structure of government, unsustainable economic development, institutional conflicts, a faulty planning system, financial unsustainability of municipalities, unfair distribution of power, and inefficient urban development policies. Among the drivers, the impacts of institutional conflicts and lack of powerful local governance on air quality are more considerable. This study highlights the role of the rentier economy as a major obstacle to resilient responses and constructive actions against chronic environmental challenges such as drastic changes in air quality in metropolitan areas of developing countries.

Keywords: Air quality; Powerful local governance; Rentier economy; Tehran; Urban policies.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Iran
  • Urban Population
  • Urbanization