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Atab is a blazingly hot little ball of rock. But it possesses large deposits of rare earths and radioactives. A number of Imperial mining companies set up stakes here in the 400s to mine and process the ore for offworld export. Most of its exports are shipped to nearby Pikha for final processing, and it has a close trading relationship with that world. Today the Atab is a major source world for several elements, and is on the verge of becoming and industrial world in its own right.
The severe onplanet shortage of water compelled these competing firms to contract other companies to export ice from offworld for their workers and factories, and this arrangement eventually became the basis for a unified government. The local bureaucracy is a collection of water, power and environmental agencies with a tight grip on daily life. The less advanced habitat technology available locally is not as efficient at containing vital life support factors like water and moist air, and the government enforces compensatory regulations. Civilian movement on the surface is heavily restricted, and an extensive system of underground vehicle and rail tunnels link the various communities together. Life on the surface is limited to special communities, including a sizeable population of Jonkereen.
Because of water shortages, all water consumption and usage is strictly rationed by the government. For the most part water is used for drinking and industry. Until this century even sewage had to be disposed without the conveyance of modern sewers, creating huge sanitation problems. To make matters even worse, bathing is restricted to communal baths, where the same water can be used over again by a population. All wastewater is recycled, and all communities have large traps that hold this water before chemical or natural processing can remove sewage, garbage and other contaminants. The world's water resources are stored in large underground cisterns, dug out with lasers and fusion charges. Lined with impermeable clay, and kept cool to prevent evaporation, the cisterns can store a stationary pool for several hundred years without leaking or contamination. An extensive network of canals and pipes distribute water to the population. For economic reasons, cooling technology like air conditioning are restricted to cooling these cisterns, and the population gets by on shade and other less power intensive technologies.