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Clouds of Discontent

A perennial brown cloud hangs over south-east Asia as the governments responsible look on

Every year a giant brown cloud of pollution grows and moves across South-East Asia. In this cloud are smoke from deforestation, but also huge quantities of SO2 and NO2 from the burning of fossil fuels.

China smog
China's cities are now swathed in permanent man-made clouds

These chemicals lead to the formation of sulphuric and nitric acid in clouds, which do not respect national boundaries. The acid rain they produce can fall far from the source of the pollution, and cause major damage to ecosystems, water resources, agriculture and infrastructure. The economic costs are far from insignificant.

There is a long-established link between poor pollution control and economic and environmental impacts. But what are governments doing in their struggle to reduce this perennial, transboundary problem?

Indonesia has permitted private corporations to fragrantly break the law, by burning forest to clear the land for palmoil cultivation, farming, or mining. Other countries have started lawsuits against the Indonesian government for its inaction in combating illegal deforestation, which is causing a pan-regional pollution problem.

China contributes by a long history of neglect of the environment. In an all-out dash for rapid industrial development, it has created an enormous liability in poor pollution control standards and infrastructure. And now that the burgeoning middleclass want to add hundreds of millions of fossil fuel vehicles to the problem of coal and fuel heating, China's cities are becoming unsustainable in their levels of health risks.

Article by Andrew Bone, December 31, 2015

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