Students of Hà Nội's Thăng Long Primary School walk home. Việt Nam's schools may be asked to close on poor air quality days, according to the draft law revising the 2014 Law on Environment Protection. — VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam may order schools to shut down on days when the air quality is poor, according to the draft law revising the 2014 Law on Environment Protection.
There are also provisions being discussed to reduce the amount of traffic in urban areas and close factories on days when pollution levels are high.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) said the emergency declaration when air pollutants concentration rise to dangerous levels was included in the draft law.
The Prime Minister will be responsible to adopt national action plans, task municipal people’s committees and MoNRE to implement emergency measures in case air quality witnesses a drop on inter-provincial and inter-regional scale.
Lê Hoài Nam, head of the ministry’s Environment Quality Management Department, said the declaration would be based on air quality monitoring indicators, environmental incidents or extreme weather events.
According to Nam, heads of provincial people’s committees will take responsibility to develop air environment protection plans.
“The plan includes the assessment of air quality and status quo in each locality, lists major emission contributors and presents potential solutions,” said Nam.
“The draft law does not specify the measures to be taken when declaring an emergency. Detailed measures will be adopted by local authorities based on their conditions.”
Meanwhile, the draft law offers possible solutions which may be used when air quality drops to unhealthy levels including suspension of factories, school closures or traffic bans in urban areas.
Nghiêm Trung Dũng, former head of Institute of Environmental Science and Technology under Hà Nội University of Science and Technology, said local authorities should consider evacuating people in case of air pollution emergency.
MoNRE blames the amount of motor vehicles for reducing air quality, especially in big cities. During the social distancing period, air quality was improved significantly compared to the same period last year.
The ministry proposes to task provincial authorities to classify vehicles based on types of fuel, emissions and age to reduce air pollution.
The Government is asked to offer incentives to encourage people switch to public transportation and green vehicles as well as develop a plan to eliminate vehicles using fossil fuel.
Pollution by night
Meanwhile, the Việt Nam Environment Authority has warned residents of Hà Nội and neighbouring provinces to stay indoors at night over the next days as air pollutant concentration is soaring.
Earlier, from June 3 to 9, air quality in some northern localities dropped due to stubble burning. Hot, dry weather created favourable conditions for farmers to fire straw fields in preparation for the next crop.
The concentration of fine dust PM2.5 in rural areas starts increasing at 6pm and reaches a peak around 8pm to 10pm daily, according to VEA.
In Hà Nội’s urban area, Air Quality Index (AQI) reportedly ranged between 151 to 200 – unhealthy levels from June 3 to 7. The city’s AQI increased to very unhealthy levels of 201 to 300 early June 7.
High radiation intensity in Hà Nội in the first two weeks of June leads to thermal inversion and worsening air pollution, according to VEA.
Việt Nam was ranked 141 out of 180 countries and territories in the biennial Environmental Performance Index released by Yale University in June 4, dropping nine places compared to the previous report from 2018. In terms of air quality, the country witnesses an improvement, now standing at 115th compared to the last position of 159th.
In late May, Hà Nội operated additional 24 air monitoring stations, raising the number into 35 citywide. — VNS