Maybe it’s made the TeeVee wherever you are. Maybe not. But, in a face saving Asian nation somewhere, the air pollution is really bad. It was quite severe in the capitol a few months back. Now the problem has drifted up north where it is among the worst air quality in the world.
It’s a pity really. Lush and mountainous has become drab and toxic. Rivaling Beijing, Delhi and Ulan Bator.
Visibility was bad enough to close airports. In some areas, schools were closed out of concern for the children. In these parts, most schools are largely open air. At least in the common areas, so kids are outside a lot. One problem with closing schools, is that many homes are also open air, so they don’t really reduce anyone’s exposure.
People wear masks. Their sales are off the chart. Most of them are ill fitting and do little to stop the tiniest and most dangerous particles from settling deep, deep ,deep into one’s lungs. It’s hard to fit them to children without gaps around the edges.
There are few air filters around and no central HVAC systems that might clean the indoor air.
Thankfully, (hopefully?) it is only for a few months of the year. The pattern is such that when the rains come, the air will improve. That is the hope. The public, though, can look out the window and see the problem. And this has them clamoring. And public officials are promising solutions.
They tightened down regulations on construction. Trucks need to be rinsed off before they hit the road off a construction site. Dirty piles of dirt and waste are hosed down to minimize the flyaway dust.
Several hundred new natural gas buses had been languishing around for months waiting for permits, while decrepit belching buses from the 70’s still plied the roads. This process was sped along. Daily scooter rides are much cleaner, albeit still dirty.
One problem in living in a society where it is frowned upon to speak out against the government, is that no one can speak up about stupid ideas.
A thought emerges, and yes-men and yes-women make it happen. All in the effort to appear like something is being done, even though no progress is made toward the actual problem.
For instance, cloud seeding was attempted in an effort to get it to rain earlier and wash the air, but prevailing winds weren’t blowing over the cities with the dirtiest air. So, hybrid water cannons were deployed. Looking like snow making cannons one sees on ski slopes they poured thousands of gallons of water a couple hundred feet into the air in a few select blocks of a city that spans 50 miles across.
When it was pointed out that the pollution ranged so much higher than the cannons could reach, someone mentioned drones. Someone else pointed out that perhaps, the pollution would reduce if the water were somehow stickier. Thus a fleet of drones was born. Each with a 30 minute battery capacity and 2 gallon capacity, ready-made to soar at heights over the city emitting a fine mist of dilute molasses.
The populace was warned against wearing their finery in case the passed through a cloud of brown treacle.
One place where drones may have made a difference is in patrolling from the skies. A large source of pollution comes, as it does every year, from crop burning as farmers prepare for the coming planting season. Drones could conceivably identify fires and direct fire control of hot spots.
But, it’s an election year and farmers vote, and no one wants to tell voters what to do if it will bring higher costs. Also, pollution knows no borders, so surrounding countries would have to play along and in this section of the sandbox, that doesn’t often happen.
So, government officials fly in, voicing support and concern about the problem. Declaring that the problem must cease by next Friday or some such date, or else. And then they jet off leaving a trail of particulate matter in their wake.