Air quality in Viet Nam and China is one of the hot topic.
For years it was a common assumption that air quality in China, specifically in its rapidly growing urban centres and industrial areas, was some of the worst in the world. For years that assumption may have been true. Recently though, the Chinese government has been taking steps to reduce pollution through a variety of measures, headlined by a promise at last year’s Paris climate talks to decrease coal consumption year on year until meeting its pledged emissions cap in 2030. Since 2014, coal consumption in China has fallen in line with projections, and this has led to positive changes in AQI in many Chinese locations, including the capital, Beijing.
North of the border in China, there are a handful of cities putting this type of system into practice. License plate auctions in Shanghai often result in registration costing more than vehicles themselves. The same goes for Beijing where the license plate auctions, or lotteries, have been in place since 2011. The sheer number of people and growing middle class in China have made these programs almost a necessity there, and although Vietnam is a much smaller scale, it is on the same path. As salaries in cities rise, the middle class expands and car taxes are lowered, the central government will face some serious decisions regarding the quality of air which those who choose to walk are breathing.
On that particular morning in Ho Chi Minh City, the hazy hot air, thick with particles, registered at 90 on the AQI scale. Beijing registered 53. Adding to the alarm within Vietnam is the fact that air in their own capital of Hanoi is becoming worse at an even faster pace. On that same morning, Hanoi’s AQI was 110. How is it that a country only a fraction of the size, with only a small percentage of inhabitants compared with mammoth China, could be producing AQI ratings over twice as high as its northern neighbour? The answer is complex, but there are some simple facts which can be gleaned.
First and foremost is that in Vietnam the countryside still remains largely unaffected by heavy air pollution. The coastal city of Nha Trang regularly registers “good” AQI levels, with some “moderate” days. In China it’s a different story as several examples of “small” inland cities often read at astronomical levels on the AQI scale. Take the example of Liuzhou, an industrial and manufacturing hub in Guangxi. On that same morning it registered an AQI of 220. So it is not exactly true that all localities in Vietnam are more polluted than in China, but there is one major factor affecting Vietnamese cities: Traffic.
The number of private vehicles in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City has skyrocketed in recent years with Hanoi taking the lead in terms of heavy air pollution. Official data shows that the Vietnamese capital currently has 5.3 million motorbikes and 560,000 cars. These numbers are set to increase year on year, 11% for motorbikes and 17% for cars. By 2020 Hanoi will be home to 7 million bikes and 1 million cars. As the federal government in Vietnam continues to lower vehicle purchase taxes, the haze over its major cities will continue to linger. Talk of limited vehicle license plates has been heard, but not in a significant official capacity.
Air quality in Vietnam is getting worse and worse, the urgent thing is looking for method to reduce air pollution.
Statistics from Thanh Nien News, Bloomberg News and Scientific American