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Reducing emissions from transportation is crucial for Hanoi to tackle air pollution

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Hanoi will take action to achieve a good and moderate air quality index on at least 75-80% of days in the year by 2030, with a focus on reducing PM2.5 emissions from major sources by approximately 20% compared with 2019, which is equivalent to approximately 6,200 tons of PM2.5.

This is a key content in the Hanoi People’s Committee’s plan for managing air quality in the city until 2030, with a vision for 2050 in response to growing air pollution concerns.

Numerous experts have expressed their approval for such an initiative, highlighting the urgent need for the city to prioritize tackling emissions from air pollution sources, especially those from transportation, to achieve this goal.

Air pollution has had an incalculable impact on public health and the economy, with the number of cases of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases increasing every year.

Expert Kim Van Chinh from the Environmental Monitoring and Modeling Research Center stated that with rising PM2.5 concentrations, Hanoi is estimated to experience an additional 1,062 hospitalizations due to cardiovascular diseases and 2,969 hospitalizations due to respiratory diseases annually. The estimated cost of air pollution in Hanoi is approximately VND2 trillion ($78.7 million) per year between 2011 and 2015.

A report from the Hanoi Department of Natural Resources and Environment shows that air pollution in the city is an urgent problem. On more than 30% of days monitored throughout the year, air quality index (AQI) levels were rated as poor or very poor.

The average annual PM2.5 concentration in Hanoi is almost twice as high as national technical standards. Between 2017 and 2020, the city’s annual average PM2.5 consistently exceeded national standards and was more than eight times higher than WHO recommendations. Studies show that transportation is the largest source of PM2.5 emissions, accounting for between 58% and 74%.

The second largest source is industrial production, which contributes between 14% and 23% of emissions. Other sources include agriculture at 3.4% to 18.9%, household activities at 6.2% and waste incineration at 2.2%. Every day, Hanoi consumes approximately 80 million kW of electricity and millions of liters of gasoline and oil, in addition to the frequent burning of agricultural by-products and spontaneous waste combustion. These are the sources of greenhouse gas emissions that cause environmental pollution, especially air pollution.

Substantial measures are needed

Do Van Nguyet, director of the organization Live & Learn, believes that identifying the main sources of air pollution in Hanoi, especially from traffic, is crucial for implementing effective measures to protect air quality.

However, she also emphasizes that air pollution is a ‘disease’ caused by multiple ‘sources of illness’, not just transport emissions. Therefore, treating the ‘disease’ requires a comprehensive and synchronized approach. She stated that a disease caused by multiple causes is more difficult to treat, and air pollution in Hanoi is a complex problem.

According to her, Hanoi faces both opportunities and challenges in tackling air pollution. Opportunities include successful environmental protection models currently being implemented.

Nguyet also praised Hanoi’s effective communication efforts, which have spread environmental protection messages that resonate with the public, especially the younger generation. This foundation is critical to achieving environmental goals in Hanoi and throughout Vietnam.

She talked about research in a central province far from Hanoi, where air pollution is not as serious. “Surprisingly, the young participants showed great interest in Hanoi’s air pollution problem, which they learned about through various media channels,” she noted.

This demonstrates the effectiveness of environmental communication efforts, while the younger generation’s interest in environmental issues is promising. However, Hanoi faces challenges such as rapid urbanization and its impact on environmental protection, especially air quality.

Tackling policy bottlenecks

Nguyet highlighted another challenge Hanoi must overcome to achieve its air quality goals: policy bottlenecks, especially in controlling motorcycle emissions. Because motorcycles are an important means of livelihood for many, there is resistance to emissions controls.

Addressing this challenge will require public awareness and a change in perception of motorcycle emissions control.

Dr. Nguyen Huong Hue, from the Sustainable Transport Unit of the French Development Agency (AFD), also discussed the need to reduce emissions from transport, emphasizing the importance of developing public transport.

According to Hue, public transport in Hanoi currently only meets 10-15% of demand, which is a modest figure. Worldwide, one person dies every 13 minutes from the effects of air pollution.

Hue pointed out that air pollution is a global problem, not just a problem for Vietnam or Hanoi, and expects that more attention should be paid to protecting air quality, especially by developing public transportation in Hanoi. “Why do we refuse to drink dirty water but accept to breathe dirty air?” Hue said.

Hanoi times