From the Asian pollution cloud

The UNEP (UN Environment Program) have released a report on the ever-increasing pollution cloud in Asia (see here).  I remember holidaying in Asia during the severe Sumatran forest fires and experiencing horrendous air pollution problems in KL.  But this time, there is no single source.

I can report that Dili has no such pollution clouds.  During the dry season, the prevailing wind is from the north-east.  And there is no heavy industry to be seen for a bulls roar (ie a long distance).

However, on a per-capita basis, it really seems that Dili is not doing too well.  It seems that the vehicle traffic has tripled since I arrived in 2005 and while cycling, I have nearly keeled over a number of times from a face full of diesel fumes from vehicles sadly in need of maintenance or putting down.

And Dili is serviced electrically by diesel generators that have a bad habit of clapping out regularly.  As a result, every man and his dog seems to have a private generator to overcome these problems.  So at any time, there must be total generating capacity far exceeding total demand.  I will call this inefficient.

But if Dili has a problem its the stripping of all vegetation off the hills for either fuel for cooking or because of some old tradition of burning off the hills during the dry season.  And that confounded habit of sweeping the dirt around domestic dwellings (ie no grass) in the mornings … could cause more pollution than anything else.  But at this stage, its all small beer (ie not too much of an issue).

In any case fellow Asians, if you are getting too much of a lungful of the pollution cloud, why not come over to Dili and test out the pristine air.  And you only have to drive for 10 minutes to get out of the metropolis … eat in grass huts by the sea, cold beer, swimming, snorkelling ….  (Jakarta residents take note.)

Weather report

Weather Report were a definitive jazz fusion group led by the masterly keyboards man Jo Zawinul.  They gotta be more interesting and correct than Dili weather reports.

Most mornings I listen to Radio OZ and I scream when I hear the Dili weather report.  Now tell me what is the point of telling me it is going to be 28 degrees today and tomorrow 28 and maybe next month 30, rising up to a peak of around 34 early next year.  Am I going to tuck in my down jacket, my fleecy underwear ?  Maybe salube * in some silky boxers for the day.  Perhaps dash out to “Top One” in Audian (Dili’s answer to any decent shop in Rodeo Drive) to update my wardrobe.

What is relevant is “will it rain/storm/bucket ?”.  I get daily emails with the weather report.  For weeks, it has been telling the same old 28 degrees and every 2nd day, predicts rain and fails.  May as well recite a verse from Shakespeare instead.

My advice to the ABC (& others) is stop it before you need an arm extension to pick your nose.  My suggestion follows :

ABC (& others) version : “Dili will be 28 degrees and cloudy”

My version : “Do I need to tell you that today will be 28 degrees ?  Didn’t think so.  Same as yesterday really … bit of wind.  If you see those clouds building up over Dare, probably forget about it.  Its just teasing.  And that north-easterly wind, its when it stops that you have to worry.  Stay cool.”

* Yet another OZ linguistic mastication of the wonderful word, salubrious.  To salube is to enjoy the high life, curl the mo, strut your mutt.  That is, aim to achieve a higher state of salubriousness.  In other words, pretend things are a whole lot better than they really are … for an hour or two.  For some reason, only used after the 5th drink.

Weekly Digestive

It took a few passes before I worked out what has happened with a few restaurants down at Metiaut, towards Christ Rei.  It looks like Sabai Sabai has gone and after a few renovations, it looks like the Garden 88 restaurant has replaced it.  A little further down, Tuk Tuk has now opened – it is the Thai Jasmin but in a new location.  There is also another new one without a name right next to Long Beach Health Club.

This follows the closure of Enigma’s beach-side restaurant operation and the renovations to the beach-side operations of the Atlantic Grill and Sol e Mar.  Sol e Mar is no longer the small, quiet cozy juice bar.  The beach operation is now a fully fledged retaurant and bar and across the road, the main building is being completely re-built and about 5 times bigger.  Who knows what it will look like.

The traffic yesterday was apalling around the Palacio.  Someone told me it was Xanana’s birthday.  If that is true, he must have been having it at his new office location which is on the western side of Lita supermarket.

Timor Diver is right on the money re. motorcyclists and helmets.  Over the last month, I have seen at least 5 occasions when a helmet goes rolling down the street. These are the “ice-cream container” helmets made of thin and useless plastic and utterly pointless if not strapped on at all.

I have noticed the high tides of late crashing over seawalls in a couple of places, dumping water and tons of sand. I can’t wait for that king tide coupled with a nice northerly wind whipping up some big high waves. Could be interesting.

The end of the wet season – not just yet

To whoever it was I said “I think the wet season is over as the early morning and evening humidity has dropped dramatically” … well, that’s why I am not a meteorologist.  Over the last hour or so, it could well have been the heaviest bucketing this year or just that if you are caught in it, it just seems worse.

The house is surrounded by a 4 inch deep lake as is everywhere I have been over the last hour.  I actually feel drenched and cold.  I also looked out to sea and thought “wow, the world biggest low tide stretching out twice as far as I have seen it”.  Then it started sinking in, that’s not low tide, that’s garbage floating several hundred metres out.  Tons of it.

It is not pretty.  If the roads can be repaired in super-fast time just for the President’s return then stuff can obviously be done but this rubbish thing is getting out of hand.

Another reason I thought the wet may be over was the amount of dust in the air yesterday.  I’ll take a punt and suggest that there was a massive amount of extra sweeping yesterday just to make the street spotless for the President’s homecoming.  Now I know where all the swept away stuff is !

Rain, rain and more rain

It has been raining pretty much non-stop for over 8 hours here in Dili and I can’t recall a long session like this for a long time.  The house is about to float away.  The street is a lake.  The roof is leaking badly in some places and if it keeps going, I think it will break through the ceiling in a couple of spots.

I think this will cause quite a few problems around town.  This is the sort of stuff that causes road slips.  I imagine Comorro river is doing some very strange things and this may sort out just where it decides to break out to the sea.  We’ll see as the day pans out.

Roads and waves do not mix

It seems that it has rained 2 days out of 3 so far in 2008.  If water gets in under road surfaces, then deterioration often sets in quickly.  There seems to be a marked deterioration in the road surface around town.  Perhaps the bits getting the worst of it are the roads along the seaside stretching from the Christo Rei statue right down to the Ocean View Hotel near the Comorro River mouth.

Although there have been warnings of expected rough weather, it hasn’t really let go yet but even so, on a high tide, waves have frequently been seen crashing over these seaside roads.  The rapid deterioration right in front of the Malaysian Embassy down near the Comorro market/Pertamina Wharf corner has been quite noticable.  The seawall (only about 0.4 metres high) seems unable to cope with the wave action there and for as long as I can remember, has been pummelled into smithereens.

Just east of “pig bridge” near the Red Cross, waves have crossed the road and further east, the road is getting damaged more and more.

Who knows what will happen in a really big storm.  There is a reason to use 4 wheel drives here.

Maybe the young girl was right

During the week, I was doing the “walk up to Jesus” and on the way down, a young girl handed me a small leaflet which amongst other things, suggested I would burn in hell (with suitable diagram attached) if I remained a sinner. I quote : “Yes! The wicked shall be turned into hell … Hell is a terrible place where fire is. … Sinners will burn in hell forever.” I guess I had better start marinating some kebabs in preparation.

There has already been a bit of pestilence out west with locust problems and the Liquica area has copped a bit in the flooding department recently but I am still trying to get my head around recent warnings (originating from the UN I think) of extreme weather conditions to be expected over the next few weeks.

Apart from the general warning of extreme weather conditions, the water cooler chatter suggested things like extreme heavy rain, high winds and king tides which could result in large scale flooding of Dili with encroachment of the sea into the city itself.

Even now, some of the seawalls protecting the roads along the seashore are breaking up and are regularly overtopped by waves so I would expect more of that.  Maybe I wouldn’t like to be a restaurant in the Metiaut area.  These are the ones pretty much on the beach itself and I could see some of them in trouble in a king tide and a storm.

Most of us already know that the city drainage system performs poorly in heavy rain and while the ground has an enormous capacity to soak up water, there is a point where incoming rain exceeds that capacity and I would expect to see large areas of town in swamp-like conditions.  Last year’s extremely dry wet season meant none of this sort of stuff but I recall a few heavy downpours from the previous year which caused a few problems.  And there sure aint nothing quite like the Comorro River in full flood.

Now listen hear you’all sinners out there. Stop now – I don’t want my suntan to fade.

Shorts – to read not wear

(1) I noticed another raid on known girlie bars around town has netted another 87 foreign Asian nationals. I understand that people involved in the trafficking of women and associated prostitution regard countries going through internal conflict as good bases for their operations. I suspect the presence of the UN is also a good indicator.

The raids have included Mona Lisa, Moon, Great Wall and Mayflower Bars and (although I am not sure on this one) the Non-Drunking Bar. I have never been to any of these – honest !

(2) A couple of days ago, I read that the Timorese government had asked Australia to allow Timorese workers in to mitigate labour shortages in the fruit picking industry. I was speaking to a Timorese who runs his family’s coffee plantation way up in the highlands and he laughed. He struggles to get Timorese to work for him to pick coffee. He might get a couple of days work then they have had enough. His worker retention rate was less than 10% and he aint giving up those 10%. He knew why OZ had ignored the request.

(3) The Comorro River mouth has broken through to the sea about 300 metres east of the most direct route.  The current channel runs parallel to the seashore and runs right past the Ocean View deck which has been running a big risk of being undermined.  Some of the supports have been strengthened.

(4) There is a bar that is new to me called “Amigos Club” which is upstairs from the New Sanan Rai restaurant a couple of hundred metres east of the ANZ bank.  Cozy with a terrace bar feel, it looks promising for a private function of about 20 but no more.

(5) A friend underwent emergency surgery at Dili National Hospital a couple of days ago.  The preferred option of flying to Darwin simply wasn’t on in this case.  The operation was performed by an OZ doctor and a Dutch anaesthetist and reportedly, the experience was a happy one – at least the bit after the emergency reception area.  The operating bit was done in the new section of hospital opened not so long ago.  No red wine was involved.

2008 – rain, rain and more rain

After a fairly entertaining New Year’s Eve with lots of fireworks and lots of rain, New Year’s Day was spent tucked away at home watching it rain all day.  It seemed the right thing to do.  And it seems it has rained most of the time ever since.

Apparently there is a huge weather system that is affecting the whole region.  The more common pattern of clear mornings followed by cloud in the afternoon and possible afternoon or evening rain is not to be seen.  It is strange to wake in the morning to rain.  However, it is causing a bit of a mess even though Comorro River has still not quite run bank to bank yet.

There is a huge brown streak heading east along the coastline from the tons of silt washed down the Comorro River.  It looks like waves of mud breaking on the beaches.  On some of the roads to the west, there has been a lot of topsoil washed down onto the roads and a few of the small bridges have been overtopped and were impassable.  The road was cut in at least one place due to the huge depth of slushy mud deposited onto the road surface but there are a number of excavators working to move slush back into controllable places.  It looks like a lot of soil has moved closer to the sea and a few crops washed away.  In one place, the road has eroded to half its normal width with one half having fallen into a newly created drain.

I believe quite a number of people in the Liquica area have had to leave their homes temporarily.  It just looks like one or two more big rains could cause a fair bit of trouble.  But I would hardly have known this if I hadn’t driven out to Liquica and seen it myself.  I am guessing it is much the same in the easterly direction.

And the mosquito count is definitely up.

The dirtiest city in the world

Last week was a week of grumbling guts and an even bigger week for international relations with the visits of the Port Royal (a US Navy cruiser), the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the new OZ PM Kevin Rudd. Personally, I have always wanted a PM called Kev … or Barry (ie Baz) … or even better again, Les.

But my award for international diplomacy goes to the President for claiming that Dili is the dirtiest city in the world. I am humbled that he has obviously analysed my recent post on the subject of garbage. However, there are plenty of cities with choking air pollution, obnoxious drains and horrendous noise pollution, all which would put Dili in the shade.

The President does regularly walk in the parts of town out east where garbage has been a problem on the beaches which is also near to where he lives.

He points out that contractors have been paid to do garbage collection but a weak supervision process in many public works contracts means things just don’t get done as well as they might. That needs to be improved and systems put in place to make it easier for people to dispose of garbage neatly. But lay off the pigs – the hardest working garbage processors in town.