Very unhealthy Hanoi air quality evokes calls for emergency measures

By Gia Chinh   December 12, 2019 | 11:59 pm PT
Very unhealthy Hanoi air quality evokes calls for emergency measures
Hanoi in a shroud of haze in the morning of December 13, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Nghia.
Air pollution indexes in the capital city have stayed at alarming levels for four days now, prompting experts to call for emergency measures.

The capital's Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at above 200 Friday morning by 11 air monitoring stations scattered throughout the city.

At 8 a.m. AQI at the Minh Khai air monitoring station in Bac Tu Liem District reached 261 and at the French Embassy, 266. All other stations recorded an average AQI of over 240.

At this level, experts advise children, seniors and individuals with heart or lung diseases to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities.

This was the fourth day in a row the capital's air quality had risen to above 200, deemed very unhealthy for humans. 

The levels have stayed consistently high between midnight until noon.

At 4 a.m. on Tuesday, the AQI at one station on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street was measured at the extremely unhealthy level of 336.

The AQI is a metric used by multiple governmental agencies to determine how polluted the air is. An AQI level above 100 is considered polluted or unhealthy for humans. Children, seniors and individuals with respiratory and heart diseases are recommended to avoid sustained and high-intensity outdoor exercises when AQI levels reach 150 or above.

IQAir AirVisual, a Switzerland-based air quality monitoring facility that generates data from public, ground-based and real-time monitoring stations, recorded Hanoi's AQI level at 333 as of 7a.m. Friday, making it the most polluted city in the world at that moment.

According to Airvisual, AQI in Tay Ho District was at 405. Independent air quality analysis system PamAir recorded the air quality index of staying above 200 at 40 monitoring stations throughout the city.

The Vietnam Environment Administration said that Hanoi and other parts of the north region are in the dry season and a period of seasonal transition when air pollution is usually at its highest level of the year.

Hoang Duong Tung, President of Vietnam Clear Air Partnership, said Hanoi's air quality has been returning to 'hazardous levels' since December 8, and has only gotten worse since.

"It can be seen that the air quality in Hanoi this year has been continuously polluted. I think it is necessary to seriously talk about the sources of waste and seek emergency measures to tackle air pollution," he said.

Tung noted Hanoi is not taking the matter seriously. "There's been no major inspection on environment standards at construction sites for example."

He said the authorities are creating a mindset that air pollution is a natural problem that people have to live with, while it comes mostly from human activities.

Air pollution is not new in Hanoi, but it has gathered increasing urgency. Heightened levels of pollutants and smog have been seen in recent months, including a five-year high in September.

Officials have said the low quality of air in Hanoi is caused by construction, a growing number of cars and motorcycles and heavy industry, including steel works, cement factories and coal-fired plants. However, they have not outlined any comprehensive plan to deal with the causes of pollution.

The city of eight million people has more than five million motorbikes and 550,000 cars, and the number of private vehicles is increasing at a rate of 4.6 percent a year.

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