Geopolitics

In Iran, The Pandemic Has Prompted A Spike In Suicides

The pandemic has made things seem even bleaker for a population already struggling with serious economic woes and government repression.

A man wearing a face mask walks on a street in Tonekabon, Iran, on April 26, 2021.
A man wearing a face mask walks on a street in Tonekabon, Iran, on April 26, 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed a staggering number of people worldwide. But it's also had a profound impact on people's mental health, including in Iran, where dire economic conditions and strict curbs in individual liberties caused significant psychological hardship even before the current health crisis.

Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak continuing to spread, officials says that there's an even greater incidence of mental disorders, suicides and physical fighting, Kayhan London reports, citing sources within Iran.

Iran_lockdown_bazar

The lockdown of Tehran's bazar in Iran, in early April 2021. — Photo: Sobhan Farajvan/Pacific Press/ZUMA

The news outlet notes that even before the pandemic, roughly a quarter of the population suffered some type of mental disorder, and that in the year prior to March 2020, an estimated 5,000 Iranians took their own lives.

With the arrival of the virus, people began feeling more desperate.

But with the arrival of the virus, people began feeling more desperate still, as evidenced by a 4% rise in suicides in the period between March and November 2020, according to a source at the state coroner's office.

Kayhan London also cites an official from the State Welfare Organization, Behzad Vahidnia, to suggest that there's been a 16% increase in stress and depression since the pandemic began in early 2020.

With regards to people getting into fights, there are no official figures available. But anecdotal evidence drawn from social platform postings suggests that physical violence has increased as well, especially in Iran's northern and north-western provinces.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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