For the first time, Hanoi has released daily readings of the Air Quality Index (AQI) allowing the public to keep track of pollution in the city on a website.
The website, hanoi.gov.vn/quantracmoitruong, which is only in Vietnamese at the moment, provides updates on both air quality and flooding based on real-time data collected by tracking stations around the city.
The AQI record of the first week of 2017 may worry many.
It showed that air pollution measured at the Nhon tracking station in Tu Liem District was at a "hazardous" level (AQI > 300) for the first two days, "very unhealthy" (200-300) on January 3, and "unhealthy" (100-200) in the next four consecutive days.
On Monday, the index improved to "average" after a "hazardous" Sunday.
The website also displays visual updates for rain in 16 most flood-prone areas in Hanoi. The city authorities are planning to make more indicators, notably water quality, available to the public.
The daily updates come amid growing concerns that air pollution in Hanoi has been worsening and reached dangerous levels, as warned by environmental experts in recent years.
Hanoi’s air has been repeatedly ranked as "unhealthy" and at times “hazardous,” which means everyone should avoid being outdoors. "Unhealthy" and "very unhealthy" levels mean children, old people and those with respiratory conditions should stay in.
Industrial activities and vehicles have been blamed for the problem. The capital city now has 5.5 million private vehicles including more than 4.9 million motorbikes, or more than 70 cars and nearly 700 motorbikes on every kilometer of road.