Air pollution is on the rise across Iran, which is adding to the number of severe COVID-19 cases, as well as deaths, because it makes it harder for people to breathe.
On Sunday, the air quality index for Tehran had entered the red zone, which interior minister Abodlreza Rahmani Fazli admitted was due to air pollution, and the capital entered a quasi-shutdown.
Tehran City Council head Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani said: “The use of sulphur-rich combustive in industries and powerplants, and the activities of some sectors have had a severe negative impact on air pollution in Tehran and the density of sulphur in the air has doubled. The reduction in the number of coronavirus deaths should not be compensated with deaths from pollution.”
So why is air pollution growing? Well because of mazut fuel being used in powerplants, according to environmental organization head Issa Kalantari, who reported that in an attempt to stop burning furnace petroleum, power plants and industrial complexes began burning mazut fuel, which is more dangerous to human health.
State-run media reported that officials denied reports even as the air pollution index rose above 200 in some parts of the country, which is concerning because “pollution causes more deaths than road accidents”, according to the Mardom Salari daily, while the head of the air pollution research centre at Tehran Medical Sciences University said that 40,000 people die annually because of pollution.
The Arman Daily wrote that “As the weather becomes colder, the skies of Tehran and other cities become greyer, and this happens while schools and other sectors are not active”, implying that this was not down to increased traffic.
The state-run Setareh Sobh newspaper cited that coronavirus deaths were rising 10—15% because of air pollution and asked why clean air laws are not being implemented to save lives now and in the future.
This was further touched on by the Etemad daily who wrote about the “air becoming increasingly polluted” and reported on the ‘dont_burn_mazut’ hashtag, which was swiftly gaining traction on Iranian social media. One person quoted had written “Don’t burn mazut so we can breathe”, while another wrote, “Death from air pollution is more than coronavirus deaths”.
Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said: “Because of pollution, the people of Tehran and major Iranian capitals cry out ‘we cannot breathe!’ The mullahs waste the country’s wealth in anti-patriotic nuclear and missile projects and on export of terrorism. By using Mazut, they bring death to the people of Iran.”