How polluted is Ho Chi Minh City’s air?
Ho Chi Minh City is a moderately polluted Asian city. From 2017 to 2018, the annual average concentration of fine particulate matter – also known as PM2.5 – rose from 23.6 to 26.9 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³), which is more than double the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended annual guideline. As a result, Ho Chi Minh City ranked in the top 15 most polluted cities in Southeast Asia in the IQAir AirVisual 2018 World Air Quality Report.
While Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city, it isn’t as polluted as the capital, Hanoi. Hanoi’s air pollution was almost twice as high with an 2018 annual average PM2.5 concentration of 40.8 µg/m³. Hanoi ranked as the second most polluted regional city in Southeast Asia in the same report.
Who monitors air quality in Ho Chi Minh City?
Non-government sources and the U.S. Consulate are the only providers of real-time data on PM2.5 in Ho Chi Minh City. Since early 2016, the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City has reported hourly data. Since June 2018, non-government sensors have also been reporting data publicly. In October 2019, there were six non-government sensors in operation, and by December 2019 this number had jumped to 15 sensors, all run by individuals, schools, a university or companies. The rapid growth in citizen monitoring underlines the increasing public concern about air pollution in the city and its effects on health.
When is Ho Chi Minh City’s air pollution at its worst?
Air quality usually worsens from the months of November to January, which is dry season in the south of Vietnam. During this time rainfall, which can help to clear away the fine particulate matter in the air, is low.
What are the causes of air pollution in Ho Chi Minh City?
Air pollution in Ho Chi Minh City is caused by a combination of exhaust fumes from motorbikes and other vehicles, smoke from 1,000 large factories, construction dust, and urban and crop burning.
According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s Centre for Environmental and Natural Resources Monitoring, smoke from cars and motorbikes stuck in traffic congestion is one of the major causes of air pollution in the city. Of the 10 million vehicles in Ho Chi Minh City, 8.5 million are motorbikes.
What are the effects of air pollution in Ho Chi Minh City?
In September 2019, Saigon General Hospital reported a 5-10 percent increase in patients admitted for respiratory diseases on days with higher levels of air pollution, demonstrating that smog has become a serious health risk in the city.
In Vietnam as a whole, the deaths of more than 60,000 people from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary heart disease were related to air pollution in 2016, according to the World Health Organisation.
Visibility on the roads can worsen considerably during severe episodes of haze.
How can air pollution in Ho Chi Minh City be reduced?
The deployment of non-government sensors in Ho Chi Minh City has enabled residents to access more real-time air quality data and see a better picture of their city’s health. The deployment of such air monitors, which cost less than US$300 compared to tens of thousands of dollars for a typical government station, allows for more hyper-local information and raises greater awareness of air pollution and its impact on health.
Making real-time air quality data available with greater granularity is an important first step to solving air pollution. When people know how much pollution they are breathing, they are better able to protect themselves and mobilise efforts around tackling air pollution. In September 2019, residents in Ho Chi Minh City held a peaceful march to raise awareness of air pollution and other climate change issues, marking the first time the city joined the global Climate Strike movement.
In October 2019, local environmental officials announced they would speed up a plan to build nine air quality monitoring stations and one mobile station, as well as set up 11 additional monitoring stations by 2030. They said they would also send early pollution warnings to residents’ phones.
To improve air quality in Ho Chi Minh City, emissions from vehicles and factories must be reduced. Local authorities have said that environmental protection laws will be strictly enforced and that they will take measures to reduce traffic congestion.
Individuals can take steps in their daily life to reduce personal emissions by carpooling or taking public transport, actively switching to greener fuel alternatives, and more.
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