Associate Professor Nguyen Le Ninh, a member of the Advisory Board on Science – Technology – Environment, talks to Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity) newspaper about measures to cut motorbike exhaust fumes.
What is the level of air pollution in Viet Nam's big cities?
Neither academic researchers nor the public have paid enough attention to air pollution despite the fact that international experts have put Viet Nam in the top ten most polluted countries in the world.
A representative of Viet Nam Environment Administration (VEA) has said that all big cities in the country suffer dust pollution.
Air pollution continues to worsen mainly because of traffic vehicles. There is no control in the country over the exhaust fumes emitted by motorbikes. I have warned several times about the risk that micrometer-sized dust particles (PM2.5) in the air can get deep into the lungs, causing cancers and other respiratory diseases.
Recent tests in HCM City have raised the alarm further over air pollution, especially an increase in the concentration of toxic substances like benzene and nitric oxide. The ratio of PM10 dust particles has even risen up to 80 microgram/m3 in some places, far exceeding the standard.
Traffic in Viet Nam emits about 6 million tonnes of CO2; 61,000 tonnes of CO; 35,000 tonnes of NO2; 12,000 tonnes of SO2 and more than 22,000 tonnes of CmHn every year. All these numbers are much higher than the regulated safety standard.
In addition to this, the rise in polluting exhaust fumes corresponds to the increase in number vehicles on the road. The toxin concentration at dense traffic spots in Ha Noi, HCM City, Hai Phong and Da Nang exceeded the safety standard by three to five times.
Are there problems in how we are managing air pollution?
In my opinion, air pollution control is like an orphan child now. We have management agencies, but their responsibilities overlap significantly. For example, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) is in charge of pollution control, including air pollution, while the Ministry of Transport takes care of urban air pollution control and air improvement.
On the other hand, monitoring stations, the tools to control air pollution, do not meet quality and quantity standards, so it is a struggle to update data on air quality in the cities. The lack of information, in turn, makes it impossible to publicize effectively the sources of pollution.
Viet Nam has recently developed a national action plan on air pollution control. How can this be implemented well?
The VEA developed a national action plan on air pollution control in 2013 with support from the Viet Nam Clean Air Partnership. It is expected that VEA will submit the draft plan to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) and the prime minister by the end of this year. The key point now is to develop an air monitoring network in big cities and industrial parks in order to monitor and detect air pollution or sources of polluting fumes.
What is the best solution for air pollution, now that we can see it is getting more and more serious?
It is impossible now to limit the CO2 concentration in vehicles' exhaust fumes. As a matter of fact, the more perfect the fuel burning process in the engine is, the higher the CO2 in the exhaust fumes. It is unchangeable.
The only thing we can do to lower the CO2 in the air is to increase the area of plants or to retrieve the CO2 and turn it into fuel. Apart from this, we should support the use of biofuels and try to bring down the number of vehicles in the cities. — VNS