16 July 2017

Alarming pollution in Hanoi sparks concern among locals


Hanoi residents are suffering the city’s worst air quality ever, with alarming pollution readings spooking attendees at a recent seminar.


Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Chung acknowledged that odor and air pollution in the capital have deteriorated on a daily basis, with emissions from motorbikes and automobiles the main contributors.


In early July, the municipal People’s Council agreed to a plan to improve the management of vehicles to curb traffic jams and the general level of environmental pollution in the city for the 2017-20 period, with a vision toward 2030.


Speaking at the seminar, Nguy Thi Khanh, director of Green ID, a pro-green energy organization based in Hanoi, voiced her concerns at the worsening pollution readings already recorded during the 2015-20 period.


Hanoi’s 2016 Air Quality Index (AQI) value, calculated based on the PM2.5 annual mean concentration, was twice as high as the safe limit set out by the World Health Organization (WHO), experts said at a seminar on pollution and public health in Hanoi in January 2017.


PM, or Particulate Matter, is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.


PM2.5 particulates, which are fine particles with diameters of 2.5 micrometers or less, are as thin as 1/30 the width of a human hair, and therefore can easily pass through lung tissues and be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing adverse health effects, Khanh said at a workshop earlier this year.


According to a Green ID survey conducted in 2016, the PM2.5 annual mean concentration in Hanoi was 50.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air.


Hanoi suffered 123 days of excessive PM2.5 levels in 2016 as stipulated in Vietnamese standards, and 282 days according to the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines.


“During the first quarter of this year, the average AQI value has inched up even compared to 2016,” Khanh added.


Chung, the municipal chairman, concurred, citing results yielded by 10 environment monitoring stations throughout the city in 2016.


“The number of vehicles has risen by 20-30 percent year on year, resulting in the relentless increase in emissions,” Dung noted, adding the delay in checking carbon dioxide emissions from motorbikes has worsened the situation.  


The country had planned to begin checking CO2 emissions from motorbikes in 2010 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but the scheme was deferred until 2018.


A pilot program launched some 10 years ago to provide ‘check-ups’ on motorbikes revealed that up to 80 percent of bikes did not meet requirements, he added.


The majority of the 1,400 respondents in a sociological survey recently conducted by Green ID urged more control be exerted on traffic vehicle emissions, and industrial production and construction discharges, Khanh disclosed.


Solutions


Hanoi is currently home to approximately six million motorbikes, up to 2.5 million of which are in poor conditions, Chung said.


In order to execute the plan to prohibit all motorcycles from the inner city by 2030, authorities will start minimizing the use of two-wheeled vehicles, depending on traffic infrastructure and the capacity of each area, before enforcing a blanket ban.


Certain policies, including offering monetary assistance, are also being considered to encourage residents to hand over their worn-out vehicles.


The municipal administration has adopted several approaches simultaneously to alleviate pollution, including setting up another 80 monitoring stations throughout the city to provide comprehensive parameters and planting one million trees in the 2016-20 period.


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