Babylon & Beyond

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IRAN: Rats, and the sidewalks of Tehran

January 15, 2008 |  9:24 am

SidewalkThe city of Tehran suffers from many shortages, including sidewalks.

Therefore, strolling for any length of time is only feasible along Vali Asr Street, originally created by Shah Reza Pahlavi as Pahlavi Street 80 years ago. He commissioned a tree-lined avenue to link the city's only rail station in the capital's poor south to the new palaces and villas in the north.

Recently the 22 miles of sidewalk along the street were refurbished with cement tiles. It was supposed to make walks more pleasant. But despite the $2 million or so spent, the city didn't put in new benches, and the electricity ministry says it won't supply power to the lamposts.

There were other consequences of the reconstruction. Until a few month ago,  rats infested the water drainage canals along Vali Asr, feeding off garbage. They were annoying, but at least they kept their distance.

But the sidewalk project destroyed the rat's nests.  And unfortunately, they have migrated to other parts of Tehran. The other day while walking near the University of Tehran, I bumped into dozens of sturdy brown rats braving the crowds and digging through  garbage bins.

— Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: New sidewalks send rats scurrying to city's other parts. Credit: Tehran Municipality