Every morning, the 7th floor hallway outside my apartment greets me with a wallop of nauseating air. The cooler night air has pushed yesterday’s stale air to the top floors of the building where insufficient ventilation allows it to stew. My landing and that of the 8th floor above us are the end point of a plugged chimney. At its bottom, there is only a grate over an open combine storm and sanitary sewer and in the dry season, there is little to dilute the sanitary flows. The air quality improves as I walk down the stairs and once I stand outside, the air is pleasant and even refreshing.
Yangon is not a smelly city, although there are some pungent moments. There is a functioning garbage collection system, in part privatized to people with pushcarts, who, I think, sort through their haul for recyclables and maybe get paid by weight for what is left over. It is also not an overly dirty city, although the absence of garbage cans makes littering hard to avoid. It is affected by the scourge of the plastic bag and container that are left to decompose slowly in corners, ditches and trickling streams.
Yangon is a dusty city. A car left overnight will collect a fine layer of dust. My corner of Shan Kone Street and U Wisara features a water tap for cleaning the taxis that are stationed there. The dust also comes in through the open door of the living room of my apartment. But less so than on street level. Our 7th floor elevation may concentrate the smelly air on our landing, it does limit our dust exposure.