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Mysterious Foul Odor In Tehran To Be Investigated But Jokes Abound

An aerial view of Hagh Shenas Square, south of Tehran, Iran. Undated.

Tehran Mayor on Sunday said results of the investigation to find the source a foul odor periodically plaguing various areas of the capital since January have been sent to the Disaster Mitigation and Management Organization.

In an interview with the state-run television (IRIB) last night the mayor Pirouz Hanachi said there is still no definite answer about the source of the obnoxious smell.

The residents of the Iranian capital last week started reporting the reappearance of the mysterious stench which was first felt in some areas of the capital last January. In the past few days the stench has become unbearable again and the authorities have received many complaints from the citizens.

The many theories such as burst sewage on the site of the 17-story Plasco Building which collapsed in January 2017 during a high-rise fire, leakage from Tehran's oil refinery, and petrification in garbage dumps were all dismissed by officials, as well as leakage of mercaptan from gas pipelines.The pungent smelling but harmless mercaptan is added to the odorless natural gas to make it easier to detect.

Rumors quickly spread in January last year in the capital about the possibility of the eruption of the potentially volcanic Mount Damavand about 40 miles (65 km) to the east of Tehran. This and the rumor about an impending earthquake, the ever-present nightmare of the residents of the earthquake-prone capital of Iran, continue to worry many people.

There were conspiracy theories too. Governor General of Tehran, Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey, suggested last year that a chemical substance with a strong stench released deliberately or inadvertently could be the source of the foul odor.

Officials continue to insist that there are no health hazards in the repulsive smell. Citizens, however, are seriously worried by the odor engulfing some areas already suffering from the life-threatening smug that afflicts Tehran, especially in winter.

The obnoxious odor has been detected in various areas of the city but is more noticeable in the southern parts of the city and on the way to Ayatollah Khomeini's Shrine and Tehran's International Airport about 60 km to downtown Tehran.

The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself was so "seriously bothered" by the stench on the way to the Shrine of the founder of the Islamic Republic that he tasked Rouhani's administration with resolving the issue before the end of its term, Vice-President and Chief of Department of Environment Isa Kalantari said in March.

"The Stench" has become a subject of political jokes too. "If they follow the stench they will arrive at the doorstep of the Majles (Parliament)," a Twitter user joked. Iranian social media users have also posted many Dubsmash videos playfully changing the words of various officials and personalities about the source of the odor.

Even politicians themselves have been joking about the phenomenon. When asked by a reporter on Saturday about the source of the "foul smell", the reformist Chairman of Tehran City Council Mohsen Hashemi playfully quoted a friend as saying: "It's the stench of a mess we made, which has risen now."