Thursday, June 20, 2013

Air Pollution

From my out-dated textbook (2006) - 'Air is considered polluted when it contains any extraneous constituent in sufficient quantities to adversely affect the environment or the health of people exposed to it'.

The legal/illegal burning of the forests in Sumatra have released sufficient particulates to affect visibility in Singapore, even to the extent of the Singapore Government considering a cease-work order as the current advice is to stay indoors as much as possible. I thought I heard the BBC say that the Indonesian government told the Singapore government, following a complaint, that it is very likely Singapore companies were benefiting from that activity in their forests so quit whining -- but I was half-asleep and must have imagined that part!

So 'clean' Singapore will have to do a mass 'clean-up- in a few weeks as three weeks or so worth of burnt  organic matter will not be a fun activity to clean up. More to the point-- what effect would breathing in particle-laden 'air' have on people's lungs? And should anyone be culpable?  Health Economics refer to this as a negative externality-- Peter paying for Paul and not getting any benefit from the activity occurring elsewhere.
Back in the 1980's Scandinavia suffered from destruction of their forests from 'acid rain' resulting from chemical by-products from Industry in North America drifting across the Atlantic and causing damage to vegetation and buildings.
California and Mexico have taken to installing stations distributing oxygen at street-corners to over-come the breathing problem some people might face: seems like an extreme solution and wouldn't it be better to address the things causing the problems in the first place?

Back in Guyana, I was informed by my neighbour that it is now forbidden to burn garden waste and that the Local Council is quite strict about reinforcing this-- shame they didn't seem to notice a radiation-emitting tower thrown up overnight in the playing-field down the road- but the fact that it was by a company run by the President's son may have something to do with the selective blindness! I note that the UNDP saw it fit to send the same son on a trip to Rwanda on solid-waste management exercise-- mmm, yes -that is totally in keeping with e-governance  - concern for the environment, health and sustainable development.
So there is now an accumulation of oversized branches building up near the trench behind my house and creating nice pockets for breeding mosquitoes-- nice move you clowns-- run and institute a rule without thinking it through!

However in Georgetown where nothing works as it should-- a mad German has taken to burning rice-paddy in the limited yard space next to my good-natured and long-suffering mechanic. I dropped the car off and stood chatting with him for a few minutes and came back with my clothes reeking-- there is a odd pipe emitting smoke continuously out of the smoldering heap -- where are the authorities concerned about the environment now? Maybe I should tell the mechanic to call the EPA but being a true Guyanese he would die before he does that and probably think as most Guyanese-- they wouldn't do anything anyway.

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