S­mel­ling a rat or wor­se

Mossel Bay Advertiser - - Briewe | Letters -

As ne­w­ly­weds, my brot­her and sis­terin-law did so­me he­a­vy bre­a­thing for all the wrong re­a­sons.

They li­ved in the Vaal T­ri­angle, Gau­teng, of­ten dub­bed the Vuil (Dir­ty) T­ri­angle.

My brot­her, then an en­gi­neer in trai­ning, wor­ked at the Iscor plant, of­ten bla­med for the he­a­vy air pol­lu­ti­on.

An asth­ma suf­fe­rer, my sis­ter-in-law was not a hap­py ho­me­ma­ker for the du­ra­ti­on of their stay in Van­der­bijl­park.

Neig­hbou­ring in­dus­tri­al town, Sa­sol­burg, ad­ded its own flair to the at­mos­p­her­ic cock­tail of bad s­mel­ling air.

W­hen the wind blew in the wrong di­recti­on, it car­ried the smell of sulp­hur, ma­king you feel as if you we­re en­te­ring the ga­tes of hell.

The ne­w­ly­weds mo­ved to the up­per end of Gau­teng, which be­ca­me in­cre­a­singly cap­ped by y­el­low tin­ged skies, es­pe­ci­al­ly du­ring win­ter, w­hen t­he­re was no wind.

It was par­ti­cu­lar­ly no­ti­ce­a­ble o­ver the high-ri­se buil­dings of the ci­ty cen­t­re w­hen you dro­ve from the nort­hern suburbs, w­he­re we we­re for­tu­na­te e­nough to stay.

Es­ca­ping from Gau­teng so­me 13 y­e­ars ago, sett­ling in Mos­sel Bay, the cle­an air was tru­ly a bles­sing to me.

The worst “air pol­lu­ti­on” con­sti­tu­tes w­hen red bait was­hes up at the Point or if you hap­pen to cross C­hurch S­treet w­hen a trucklo­ad of fish from the har­bour pas­ses by.

Glad­ly, w­het­her you li­ke the wind or not, should the air not be fresh, a litt­le help from mot­her na­tu­re is al­ways at hand.

Friends vi­si­ting from up north, al­ways com­ment that “the air smells li­ke la­ven­der” a­round Mos­sel Bay, gi­ving me a new ap­pre­ci­a­ti­on for fyn­bos and ot­her sweet s­mel­ling na­tu­ral ve­ge­ta­ti­on.

In re­cent y­e­ars, tra­vel­ling back to Jo'burg by air to vi­sit, the y­el­lo­wish bro­wn smog see­med mo­re and mo­re li­ke a tox­ic im­pe­ne­tra­ble do­me co­ve­ring the me­tro­po­lis.

As the pla­ne pre­pa­res for lan­ding, I in­stincti­ve­ly feel li­ke hol­ding my bre­ath as we dip in­to the smog be­fo­re hit­ting the lan­ding strip. It the­re­fo­re ca­me as no sur­pri­se this week, w­hen the news bro­ke re­vea­ling the wor­ld’s lar­ge­st NO2 air pol­lu­ti­on hots­pots a­cross six con­ti­nents, in­di­ca­ting that M­pu­ma­lan­ga is top­ping the chart.

M­pu­ma­lan­ga is ho­me to a clus­ter of twel­ve co­al-fi­red po­wer plants with a to­tal ca­pa­ci­ty of o­ver 32 gi­ga­watts, o­w­ned and o­pe­ra­ted by E­s­kom. Ac­cor­ding to G­reen­pe­a­ce A­fri­ca, this con­firms that South A­fri­ca has the most pol­lu­ting clus­ter of co­al-fi­red po­wer sta­ti­ons in the wor­ld. Sa­tel­li­te da­ta furt­her points to the a­lar­ming fact that Jo­han­nes­burg and P­re­to­ria are al­so highly af­fected by ex­tre­me NO2 pol­lu­ti­on le­vels blo­wing a­cross from M­pu­ma­lan­ga and in­to both ci­ties, due to c­lo­se prox­i­mi­ty and re­gu­lar e­ast winds. Nitro­gen Di­ox­i­de (NO2) is a dan­ge­rous pol­lu­tant and al­so con­tri­bu­tes to the for­ma­ti­on of PM2.5 and o­zo­ne, two of the most dan­ge­rous forms of air pol­lu­ti­on.

It's a sad, or wor­se, sick­ly sta­te of af­fairs. Long go­ne are the days of saying "stop and smell the ro­ses".

A sim­ple bre­ath of fresh air, soon, will be luxu­ry e­nough.

As the pla­ne pre­pa­res for lan­ding, I in­stincti­ve­ly feel li­ke hol­ding my bre­ath as we dip in­to the smog be­fo­re hit­ting the lan­ding strip.

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