Hanoi struggles with air pollution

The Vietnam Environment Administration, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the US Embassy in Vietnam have provided updated statistics at aqicn.org, a worldwide air quality monitoring data coverage website.


Dusty Nguyen Khoai Street

In Hanoi, the air quality index on March 1 to 3 at the US Embassy and United Nations International School in Hanoi ranged from 114 to 388. The particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) was three times higher than national standards and seven times higher than World Health Organisation standards.

The greater the level of air pollution accompanied by the greater the health concern. Air is considered to be unhealthy when the air quality values are above 100. When the index ranges from 101 to 200, old people and those with heart and respiratory problems are advised to not go out often, and during index results from 201 to 300 they are advised to stay indoors. When the index is above 300, even healthy people should not go out.

The air quality index in Hanoi ranked similar levels as Beijing, one of the world’s most polluted cities. The quality index in Beijing ranged from 119 to 298 from March 1-3.

Hoang Duong Tung, deputy head of Vietnam Environment Administration, claimed the air pollution in Vietnam was not as serious as in Beijing. It would need long-term air monitoring at more locations to have accurate results, he said. The air quality was worst during rush hours. However, he admitted that air pollution was a serious problem in Hanoi.


Cutting down trees obviously worsens air quality

Report in 2013 showed that air quality in Hanoi was worse than in HCM City even though Hanoi had fewer vehicles. The capital had 237 days of unhealthy air, 21 days of very unhealthy air and one day of hazardous air quality.

Particle pollution can increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks, exposure to ambient ozone is also harmful and can trigger coughing, shortness of breath, respiratory and lung diseases.

According to the Health Department under the Ministry of Transport, the number of people with respiratory illnesses in Hanoi is higher than in HCM City. People in Hanoi also spent twice as much as people in HCM City on hospital treatments for respiratory illnesses.

The high level of constructions and traffic were blamed for the results. The capital has about 1,000 construction sites and 147 of the city’s 400 manufacturing facilities are being suspected of polluting the air. Out-dated technology and industrial zones located too close to the traffic routes are also said to have worsened the situation.

The standard is ten square metres of green space per capital but the average green space per capital in Vietnam is a pathetic half a square metre.

Pham Ngoc Dang, vice chairman of Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature Environment, said Hanoi would need a solution to change its traffic, construction, industry and people's daily behaviour. The capital needed more green space, better public transport, and fuel and waste treatment systems.


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