return icon Vietnamnet.vn

Solutions needed as Hanoi chokes under smog

Over the last few days, the air quality in Hanoi has hit hazardous levels. The smog continues to blanket the capital, with AQI indicators soaring past safe levels and seeming to stay there.

 In less polluted environs online, social media feeds are full of concerned citizens scrambling for the best face masks and most efficient air purifiers.

 

{keywords}
CONGESTED: Traffic is a major source of pollution. VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam

 


The panic is only partly justified, as the city has seen a number of days over the last few years on which the air is thick with PM2.5.

The quality of the air we breathe is a tricky beast, with a range of factors impacting the local climate on a day-to-day basis. Vietnam’s rapid pace of development, which has averaged about 7 per cent annually recently, has worsened the quality. However, the increasing traffic density, agricultural practices and the activities of our neighbouring countries also play a part in the phenomenon.

Hanoi, and other Vietnamese cities, regularly make an appearance on must-visit travel lists and top experiences, yet there are few celebrations for topping the charts for ‘world’s most polluted’. The image of Vietnam, and its capital, should rightly be based on rich cultural heritage and cuisine, not the sight of people wearing masks.

Other big cities have previously suffered the same fate, often to a much greater degree. For example, the five-day ‘Great Smog of London’ in 1952 and the New York City smog in 1966. Both events were born from the unfortunate combination of pollutants and weather, with coal dust trapped by masses of stagnant air. Even today, major cities across the world see days or weeks where air quality plummets and emergency measures are needed to clear the haze.

The coalescence of heavy industry and weather phenomena were once enough to choke citizens and reduce visibility to zero. Luckily, we are not at that stage yet.

However, downloads of air quality monitoring apps have soared, indicating an increased awareness of pollution and its effects on health. People around the world have been inspired by Greta Thunberg’s example and staged ‘climate strikes’ in major cities.

The young girl’s campaign, if nothing else, has brought the issue much-needed attention and pushed the problems of rapid development and environmental ignorance to the forefront of discussion. Accelerated growth picks people up from poverty, but weighs the other side of the scale with more construction, production, vehicles and subsequent emissions.

 

{keywords}
CHOKING: Air quality in Hanoi reached hazardous levels in recent days. Photo courtesy of AirVisual

 


The vast amounts of energy needed to power Vietnam’s future expansion are currently derived from the same coal that dirtied the skies of London and New York over half a century ago. So it’s no wonder we now see the AQI number skyrocketing past the safe limit and into the 200’s and 300’s.

Meteorological factors may well be out of our control – Hanoi’s position between mountains and sea is prime for trapping air until cold fronts come and sweep the smog from our skies.

Additionally, the burning of rice straws north of the border is sure to continue. But measures can be taken to ensure air quality doesn’t reach extreme levels quite so regularly.

The Vietnamese capital is home to 5.5 million motorbikes and more than 500,000 cars. With a rapidly increasing population and burgeoning middle class, these figures will only rise. The causes for Hanoi’s haze are manifold and bikes can’t shoulder all the blame for the bad air, but clogged streets are clear contributors to the problem.

New York has adopted congestion pricing in Manhattan, while London has introduced the world’s first 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone alongside the existing congestion charge. Madrid, Paris and Oslo all have their own ‘car-free’ policies to varying degrees.

Authorities in Hanoi plan to ban motorcycles from downtown areas by 2030. According to the Director of Hanoi’s Department of Transportation, Vu Van Vien, a ban is crucial to solving these problems and will push people towards public means of transport.

Notice, however, that the ban fails to include cars, which are both a bigger threat to the smooth flow of traffic on narrow city streets and greater contributors to pollution.

Hanoi also plans to boost the use of public transport, opening new bus routes and moving to make the existing ones more prompt and efficient.

Attempts to limit the use of small coal-burning stoves have seen varying degrees of success, but perhaps with increased awareness over the long-term health impacts of bad air, these activities will begin to fade out naturally.

 

{keywords}
DEVELOPMENT: Construction projects across the city cause major dust pollution. VNS Photo Ollie Arci

 


The biggest contributor to the problem – the use of fossil fuels – is a more difficult one to solve. The country has ample potential for the development of renewable power, but these sources do not yet meet the needs of reliable energy.

These efforts can all contribute to making sure the drop in air quality is a blip, and we start to see clearer skies ahead. The current pace of growth needs a healthy dose of sustainability – ensuring the capital city remains a healthy and desirable place to live, topping the charts for tourist arrivals in the years to come.

Air pollution in Hanoi exceeds red-warning level

Air pollution in Hanoi exceeds red-warning level

Air pollution in Hanoi has risen to serious levels over the past two days.  

Heat inversion worsens air pollution in Hanoi: report

Heat inversion worsens air pollution in Hanoi: report

Many studies in Hanoi have shown that heat inversion is one of the main causes for recent sharp rises in pollutants, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE).

Hanoi air quality continues worsening

Hanoi air quality continues worsening

Statistics on September 15 showed that the air in Hanoi with PM2.5 Particles pollution had worsened.

by Ollie Arci

VNS

MORE NEWS

VIETNAM BUSINESS NEWS OCTOBER 4

Hai Phong lures more than 1.24 billion USD in first nine months

Vietnam rakes in US$16.05 billion from tourism in nine months

Vietnam earned some 394.2 trillion VND (16.05 billion USD) from tourism in the first nine months of this year, equivalent to 78% of the figure recorded in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.

VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES OCTOBER 4

Vietnam invests in 10 energy technologies

Vietnamese poetry collection published in Canada

A poetry collection from five female translators based in Hanoi, entitled Ngũ Sắc Ánh Sáng (5 Sights of Light), has been introduced to Canadian readers by Ukiyoto Publishing.

Multi-billion thermal power project needs more capital

The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) has asked for ministries' opinions on solutions to problems related to the balance sheet of the Vung Ang 1 thermal-power plant.

The best September photos on VietNamNet

Hot air balloons with the Vietnamese national flag of 1,800m2 on the banks of the Saigon River, Typhoon Noru making landfall in Quang Nam Province, the roofs of many houses being blown away...

BSR to expand Dung Quat Oil Refinery

The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) has asked Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical JSC (BSR) to clarify some issues related to its project on expanding Dung Quat Oil Refinery.

Dutch conductor to lead concert at Opera House

Conductor Leon Bosch from the Netherlands will lead a concert featuring masterpieces by European composers at the HCM City Opera House on Saturday, October 8.

‘578’ to represent Vietnam at Oscars

An action film starring Miss Universe Vietnam 2018, H'hen Niê, 578: Phát Đạn Của Kẻ Điên (578: Magnum), has been selected as Vietnamese representative at the 95th Oscars, 2023.

USD surges to VND24,000, US$1.7 billion withdrawn from circulation

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) withdrew nearly VND41 trillion ($1.7 billion) through open market operations as the US dollar rose to over VND24,000 on September 26-30, 2022.

HCM City to build a series of new traffic projects

HCM City is speeding up procedures to start the construction of key traffic works at gateways by the end of the year, according to HCM City's Department of Transport.

Burning garbage in Hanoi threatens residents' health, property

There have been consecutive fires caused by people's poor awareness, who were burning garbage and straw in residential areas, causing fires recently in Hanoi.

New cargo airline still waiting for license

After the Prime Minister agrees on the establishment of IPP Air Cargo, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) will implement procedures to grant a license to the air carrier, according to MOT Deputy Minister Le Dinh Tho.

Master plan for Mekong Delta focuses on infrastructure development

The Master Plan for the Mekong Delta designed for 2021-2030, with a vision to 2050, is focused on infrastructure development.

Current monetary policy quite suitable

Many people are concerned whether the country will face a tighter monetary policy and higher exchange and interest rates in the near future.
back_to_top