Tackling Vietnam’s air pollution

The United Nations encourages the world to take action to “beat air pollution” in response to the World Environment Day 2019 (June 5).

Adam Ward, Country Representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Vietnam and Kate Bronstein, Research Environmental Engineer from RTI International give insights into Vietnam's air quality.

Tackling Vietnam’s air pollution
Adam Ward, Country Representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Vietnam (left) and Kate Bronstein, Research Environmental Engineer from RTI International.

Air pollution is a mixture of small particles and gases – some we can see and some we can’t. Vietnam’s major cities are gravely affected by poor air quality; indeed, Hanoi was ranked second worst for air quality in the Southeast Asian region in 2018 by Air Visual.

Situation in Vietnam

When we talk about air pollution, we are referring to: particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter (PM10), PM2.5, black carbon, nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), and volatile organic carbons (VOCs).

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City regularly exceed the safe World Health Organization (WHO) limit for air pollution such as PM2.5 and PM10. So, what is causing this poor air? This has been attributed to five main drivers, including coal power, heavy industry (such as cement factories), road transportation, construction and the open burning of agricultural and municipal waste.

Exposure to air pollution is the world’s largest killer, responsible for an estimated 6.4 million deaths per year (or one in nine deaths on average). This ratio is higher than the estimated deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. Most of these deaths (4.2 million) are related to ambient, or outdoor pollution, versus indoor pollution.

Air pollution disproportionately kills the poor and those most vulnerable – infants and children under 14, the elderly, outdoor workers, and those with existing health conditions (heart disease, coronary artery disease, or congestive heart failure).

Short-term exposure to high concentrations of air pollutants result in health problems that we may be immediately aware of – headaches, coughing, difficulty breathing, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Other impacts we may not realize are occurring include damage to cells in our respiratory system and added stress to the heart and lungs, making them work harder to perform the same functions.

Long-term exposure (months to years) cause permanent health effects, including accelerated aging of the lungs; loss of lung capacity and decreased lung function; development of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD; possibly cancer (depending on the pollutant); and a shortened life span.

Short- or long-term exposure of pregnant women and young children are most concerning. Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy influences fetal development through molecular changes of the fetus, leading to potential miscarriage and changes in metabolism and development, potentially resulting in the delivery of premature and small, low birth-weight children. Being born at less than optimal conditions creates additional challenges and increases a child’s susceptibility of disease, particularly in low-income countries where sanitation and water quality are below standard. Small exposures to young children can result in lifelong disease, disability, premature death, and reduced learning and earning potential.

 

Actions to improve air quality

Transforming the energy sector is key to tackling poor air quality – Vietnam needs to turn away from coal power and embrace renewable energy and gas power (as an interim solution); GGGI are working to do exactly this through our work on scaling up rooftop solar. Improving energy efficiency of industry as well as buildings will also have large scale benefits – both for air quality and the economy. It has been fantastic to see the increase in solar after the new feed-in-tariff (FiT) was launched – long may this continue and that we see lots of wind power added with the introduction of the new FiT for wind.

Private trips made by scooters and cars are also part of the problem and on the rise in Vietnam; with annual car sales increasing by 38 per cent between 2012 and 2016. What is more alarming is that car ownership still lags other countries in the Southeast Asian region such as Thailand and Malaysia – meaning we have lots more potential car owners.

Therefore, more needs to be done to encourage people to take public transport, how? For example, by completing the metro and then building a network on bus rapid transit (BRT) systems – with dedicated enforced lanes that ferry passengers along much faster than the normal traffic. BRT systems are much cheaper and easier to build than metros and could be scaled up very quickly. This should be coupled with dissuading the purchase of new polluting vehicles – such as through a tax on petrol cars but exclusion for electric cars.

Tackling agricultural and municipal open burning can be done through enabling a network of waste-to-energy plants. GGGI has worked with the private sector on just this; with the waste-to-energy plant having already broken ground in the northern province of Bac Ninh – this will use the latest technology to recycle, reduce and then generate electricity from trash. For generating electricity from agriculture waste, GGGI’s analysis has shown that the biomass feed-in-tariff is currently too low to stimulate demand, so it is great that the government are looking to increase this in 2019, hopefully to the level GGGI has recommended at 9.35 US cents per kWh.

The Vietnamese government has made some good first steps to improving air quality – with several partnerships with development partners on constructing monitoring stations, developing action plans, and building capacity of government officials to tackle this problem. Coupled with the recent developments for renewable energy, this is very promising.

However, this is a silent killer, and the levels seen in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are alarming, combined with the forecasts for increased coal power and motor vehicles, more needs to be done to address this poor air quality. We have seen countries like China take the lead on tackling their poor air, but only after it had become a crisis, which is the path Vietnam has gone down.

The good news is that all the solutions are within Vietnam’s grasp; the Southeast Asian country is blessed with huge renewable energy potential, there are large gains to be made in energy efficiency, and metros and BRTs are proven technologies.

All that is required is the full commitment of the government to introduce the necessary policies and continue and scale up support for sustainable energy and public transport. VOV

Adam Ward, Country Representative of GGGI in Vietnam and Kate Bronstein, Research Environmental Engineer from RTI International

 
 

Other News

.
Vietnamese Innovation Network in Europe debuts
Vietnamese Innovation Network in Europe debuts
VIETNAM & WORLDicon  17/10/2021 

The Vietnamese Innovation Network in Europe (VINEU) was launched at a ceremony held at the Embassy of Vietnam in Germany and via videoconference on October 16.

ITU Ministerial Conference: Cost reduction is key for digital transformation
ITU Ministerial Conference: Cost reduction is key for digital transformation
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  16/10/2021 

Access to low-cost technology was the topic of a discussion session of the ITU Ministerial Roundtable that took place on October 12-14.

Which Vietnamese tech giants display at ITU Digital World?
Which Vietnamese tech giants display at ITU Digital World?
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  16/10/2021 

Vietnamese technology enterprises have showcased many Make-in-Vietnam solutions and products at the 2D and 3D online booths of the ITU Digital World 2021.

Where is Vietnam in the technology industry and global supply chain?
Where is Vietnam in the technology industry and global supply chain?
FEATUREicon  16/10/2021 

At the talks “Why Vietnam” held recently by the Ministry of Information and Communications, experts affirmed the significant role and position of Vietnam in the technology industry as well as global supply chains.

Together, ITU member countries can help to digitally connect everyone by 2030
Together, ITU member countries can help to digitally connect everyone by 2030
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  16/10/2021 

The ITU Digital World 2021 with the theme "Joining hands to build a digital world" organized online by Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications and ITU has closed

Vietnamese scientist awarded silver medal of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus
Vietnamese scientist awarded silver medal of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus
VIETNAM & WORLDicon  15/10/2021 

The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus has presented Professor Chau Van Minh, President of Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST), its Silver Medal.

ITU Digital World: broadband infrastructure helps reduce unemployment
ITU Digital World: broadband infrastructure helps reduce unemployment
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  15/10/2021 

The topic "Strengthening infrastructure development: The government’s role in digital transformation" was discussed by ministers and experts at the ITU Ministerial Roundtable’s discussion.

Technological autonomy the basis for Vietnam’s success
Technological autonomy the basis for Vietnam’s success
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  15/10/2021 

Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung has met with Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Houlin Zhao, who is attending the ITU Digital World 2021 hosted by Vietnam.

Vietnam, Japan sign MoU on low-carbon growth
Vietnam, Japan sign MoU on low-carbon growth
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  15/10/2021 

Vietnam and Japan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Joint Credit Mechanism - JCM at a ceremony held in both virtual and in-person forms on October 14.

VN national pavilion at ITU Digital World shows resilient digital Vietnam
VN national pavilion at ITU Digital World shows resilient digital Vietnam
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  14/10/2021 

With the theme "Resilient Digital Vietnam", the national pavilion of Vietnam at the ITU Digital World 2021 has shown a resilient digital nation, which can adapt to all changes of the times, finding bright spots to turn risks into opportunities.

Saline intrusion may occur earlier in Mekong Delta
Saline intrusion may occur earlier in Mekong Delta
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  14/10/2021 

The level of saltwater intrusion may be approximately at the level of 2015-2016, which saw historic salinity and drought in the region.

Vietnam’s initiative shows importance of digital technology: ITU Secretary
Vietnam’s initiative shows importance of digital technology: ITU Secretary
FEATUREicon  13/10/2021 

Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary General, said the renaming to ITU Digital World is a great initiative of Vietnam reflecting the importance of digital technology in the communications ecosystem.

Digital World 2021 contributes to global tech transformation
Digital World 2021 contributes to global tech transformation
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  13/10/2021 

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU)’s Digital World 2021 opened with a launch ceremony yesterday evening in Ha Noi.

AAG submarine cable fixed, Internet speed to improve
AAG submarine cable fixed, Internet speed to improve
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  13/10/2021 

The error on the S1B branch connecting Hong Kong with Singapore of the AAG international submarine fiber optic cable has been fixed. 

VN takes digital transformation-related issues to discussion at ITU Digital World
VN takes digital transformation-related issues to discussion at ITU Digital World
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  13/10/2021 

At the ITU Digital World 2021, Vietnam will bring concerns related to its digital transformation for discussion at the Ministerial Roundtable.

Vietnam gets ready for ITU Digital World 2021
Vietnam gets ready for ITU Digital World 2021
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  12/10/2021 

The opening ceremony of the ITU Digital World 2021 is taking place at the International Convention Center in Hanoi this evening.

Vietnam to plant extra 20,000ha coastal forest to cope with climate change
Vietnam to plant extra 20,000ha coastal forest to cope with climate change
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  12/10/2021 

Vietnam will plant 20,000ha of forests as part of a project to protect and develop coastal forests in response to climate change and to push green growth over the next 10 years.

Smartphones, laptops and tablets in short supply in Vietnam
Smartphones, laptops and tablets in short supply in Vietnam
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  12/10/2021 

Due to impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and reduced operating capacity of factories in China, supply of many electronic products in Vietnam has become insufficient.

Vietnam to host ITU Digital World 2021
Vietnam to host ITU Digital World 2021
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  12/10/2021 

From October 12 to 14, the Ministry of Information and Communications of Vietnam and the ITU will jointly organize the ITU Digital World 2021 event about digital platforms developed by Vietnam.

Vietnam aims for safe treatment of 100 per cent solid waste in 2050
Vietnam aims for safe treatment of 100 per cent solid waste in 2050
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  11/10/2021 

The Vietnamese Government has set a goal to raise the rate of solid waste collected and safely treated to 100 per cent in 2050 as part of the freshly approved national strategy on green growth for 2021-2030.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN