Air pollution, plastic waste fight among top 2019 environmental events

By Phan Anh   January 11, 2020 | 01:30 am PT
Air pollution, plastic waste fight among top 2019 environmental events
A woman wears an air mask near Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake, December 14, 2019. Photo by VnExpress.
The environment ministry says pollution and major advances in the fight against plastic waste were among Vietnam’s top 10 environmental events in 2019.

It noted that the country’s fight against plastic waste entered a new, more intense phase last year with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc launching several campaigns, calling for people and businesses to act to reduce plastic waste and increase recycling of plastic products.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources also enumerated several environmental crises that affected people’s lives last year, including a fire at a Hanoi warehouse of Rang Dong Light Source and Vacuum Flask JSC that released mercury from millions of light bulbs, and the dumping of used oil into a mountain creek of Hoa Binh Province, which contaminated the water supply to around one million Hanoi residents.

It also noted the many days last year when air pollution levels skyrocketed in several major cities, including Hanoi and Saigon, severely affecting people’s daily lives. It mentioned multiple heat waves, including a record-breaking high temperature of 43.4 degrees Celsius in Ha Tinh Province, that was experienced last year.

Other environment-related events and achievements named by the ministry includes Vietnam’s role in sustainably developing the Mekong Delta region and the launching of a national geo-positioning satellite system.

However, the region has been beset in recent years by frequent droughts, leaving paddy fields and freshwater reservoirs parched.

Seasonal tides in the southern metropolis of Saigon also reached record-breaking levels, flooding streets and stranding people and vehicles.

Overwhelming waste, pollution

Vietnam’s urban areas, home to a third of Vietnam’s 95 million population, discard 38,000 tons of domestic waste every day, or more than half of the country's total. The sheer amount of waste has begun to overload numerous landfills in the country, with cities running out of space for trash and citizens in the vicinity of landfills left unhappy by the stench and other health impacts they have to suffer.

Air pollution levels frequently made headlines as Hanoi and Saigon recorded dangerous levels of pollutants for long periods, especially since September. The elderly, infirm and children were repeatedly advised not to venture outdoors.

A host of natural disasters - typhoons and floods – killed dozens of lives and caused damage estimated at billions of dollars. The higher frequency of such events stressed the need for Vietnam has to tackle the climate crisis with greater urgency.

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