Cao Trung Son, director of the Centre for Natural Resources and Environment Monitoring (under the HCM Department of Natural Resources and Environment), on Tuesday spoke at a press conference about air pollution in the city.
Though HCM City People’s Committee has planned since 2016 to create an automatic weather monitoring system, the project has been delayed for a number of reasons. As a result, the city has to update information about air quality through service firms that do the task manually.
The weather monitoring process is carried out twice per day at certain times across 34 locations in designated residential areas, industrial parks and transportation routes, among other spots. Information recorded is sent to laboratories for further analysis. Final results are updated on the centre’s website, but they are not done in real time and are usually behind schedule.
Some people say the recent air pollution in the city was caused by forest fires in Indonesia. Do you agree?
There is no proof to confirm that. Why? If the smog spreads from Indonesia, the coastal provinces such as Ba Ria - Vung Tau and southwestern islands would be affected first. But that has not been recorded in these areas. With references taken from wind forecast models, it can be seen that the southwest monsoon wind is weakening, while the northeast wind has not become stronger. Therefore, if the smoke was really from Indonesia, it would have already been blown back to the East Sea before reaching Vietnam.
What kind of pollution has caused the foggy situation in HCM City?
Dry fog has been seen in HCM City. We have checked and found that this situation is usually seen during a season-changing period. As the southwest monsoon wind is weakening and the northeast wind is not getting any stronger, high humidity has created sufficient conditions for gathering of dust. As seen since 2015, this situation often occurs around September and October. Foggy weather usually lasts for a week and goes away. It is essential to note that the current situation is also a form of dust and smoke pollution. Recent monitoring results have shown that the presence of PM 2.5 fine dust and some other air criteria is higher than the standard permitted.
In 2016, HCM City planned to create an automatic air monitoring system but it has been delayed and it is being done manually. Why was there a delay?
Since the end of 2016, the city's People’s Committee has considered a comprehensive development plan for the weather monitoring system. This monitoring system does just record air quality, but also information on acid rain and water quality, among other categories. The air monitoring system would be implemented at 18 locations. The first nine locations would have the system installed after 2020, followed by other locations after 2025. As such, the project’s feasibility study report would have to be approved in 2020.
Delays have been partly caused by the separation of the Natural Resources and Environment Monitoring from the Sub-Department of Environmental Protection. The process of transferring investors to implement this project, therefore, has caused it to lag behind schedule.
Is the old monitoring system going to be used?
We realised that information exchange between relevant authorities and the press as well as locals has been inefficient due to the manual weather monitoring process. In the near future, with special weather situations, we will try to accelerate the monitoring speed. We have results of the air quality up to September 20 and will publish this information soon.
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