Last week, Việt Nam News asked readers which issue in Việt Nam worries them most: theft, traffic, or air pollution. Here are some responses:
Morten Pristed, Danish, Hà Nội
Having travelled frequently to Việt Nam during the past 10 years, then settling here in September 2015, it has been quite an unpleasant surprise when it comes to talking about air pollution. The air quality index is "unhealthy" most days. Air pollution is a quiet but very aggressive killer. Cancer is set to skyrocket in Việt Nam over the next decade, as more and more people move to the big cities. Very heavy traffic is of course a major issue. But banning the burning of garbage in the streets would be an easy and efficient small first step. "Waste is a misplaced resource." Much more garbage could be recycled, used for compost, or burned in power plants. When one cannot breathe the air freely, something certainly has to be done.
Floriane Ortega, French, Hà Nội
I have been living in Hà Nội for exactly one year. As a natural and universal reflex, I start my day looking at the weather forecast, hoping for some sunlight. Well, I mean, I used to.
One of the reasons I stopped doing so is that I slowly learned to lower my expectations of seeing any sunlight. For the last three months, the sky has been characterised by particularly grey or white clouds overwhelming the city.
The key reason I stopped looking for sunlight is that another worry has slowly taken over my frivolous concerns on the weather.
I now wake up with deep concern over how bad the air I breathe is going to be everyday. Since I discovered it, every single morning I check this website (http://aqicn.org/city/vietnam/hanoi/). It provides you with real time air quality estimation in major cities of the world, including Hà Nội, where the monitoring system is installed at three different points of the city (Ciputra Residential Area, Kim Mã Street, Gia Lâm District).
My main transportation mode is the bike which has been my travel companion in most of the cities I’ve lived in - except the cities which were too big, such as Mexico City. Among all the cities I’ve lived in, Hà Nội is the easiest city to ride in because of its incredible – and extremely convenient – flat topography. But Hà Nội is probably also one of the most challenging cities to ride in: because of the complete absence of bike lanes, and the chaotic traffic - and the most tricky factor remains the air quality.
Air pollution is a problem for each one of us in the city, however the person moves around. But air pollution is even more of an issue for a biker who breathes up to 15 times more heavily than when at rest. The metro is obviously going to help a lot. But Hà Nội also has so much potential for non-motorised transport, and for bikes in particular. Hà Nội is flat ground, so is West Lake, traffic speed is relatively slow, the street patterns are narrow. More than 80 per cent of us still rely on the motorbike. Meanwhile, a growing and worrying number of cars are also taking to the street.
It would be a pity not to use our light, fast, and zero CO2-emission companion - the bike - and to erase from memory that less than twenty years ago, almost two thirds of Hanoians were moving around on bikes.
May Franke, German, Hà Nội
My name is May Franke. I have been living in Hà Nội now for seven months.
I am most worried about the air pollution in Hà Nội and about the health of people living in the city.
May I suggest some points to improve the air pollution in Việt Nam?
The following actions might help:
1. All new cars and motorbikes must be equipped with a catalysator (filter) before sale.
2. The Gas Emissions must be as low as possible.
3. Old cars and motorbikes should be given enough time (about 2 years) to become equipped with a catalysator. Those driving without the filter must pay a high penalty: for example, US$1,000.
I hope this will be the first step to better air for all of us living in Việt Nam and also for the future generations.
Steven Fuyer, Thủ Dầu Một City, Bình Dương Province
I have expressed my concerns many times about the way truck- and bus-drivers perform on the roadways of Việt Nam. Traffic deaths are definitely the worst thing that can happen to a family.
Imagine you are on the way to school, to work, to visit your loved ones, or just on the way home....and you get injured or killed by a reckless driver. Accidents happen. But traffic accidents, and especially deaths, can be reduced by singling out drivers who are reckless, drunk, or under the influence of road rage.
Not just truck- or bus drivers, but motorcyclists should also face higher penalties and revocation of their licences for years - if involved in several accidents and/or reports of careless driving. If we save only 10 lives, then it is already worth it.
Nguyễn Thị Hoa Hường, Vietnamese, Hà Nội
I agree that security, traffic jams, air pollution are among issues that people living in Việt Nam are concerned most about now. But I can name other hot issues, including: food safety, drought, and hospital overcrowding. It’s difficult to give priority to any of the issues waiting to be tackled.
Meanwhile, some of my expat friends living in Việt Nam face problems with housing, queuing, land lords or electrical bills. They complain about how strange Việt Nam is when many basic and simple things are done in a very different way in this country. I usually reassure them. “Keep calm! Here is Việt Nam and you should adapt to it” or “We are working to improve/tackle it.” It’s funny to many people, somehow, particularly the pessimistic. Vietnamese have a saying: “sống chung với lũ.” I interpret this in English as: “to come to terms with the trouble”.
I’m sure that the Government, organisations, Vietnamese and those living in Việt Nam are aware of problems. In fact, efforts are being made to fix problems. At least, they say so. As a citizen, I hope the Government takes strong actions comprehensively, rather than just saying they’re doing something about these isues. Each Government body and agency is in charge of certain areas and issues. So, hopefully, they will do their jobs better and better. – VNS