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How serious is air pollution in Vietnam?

Every year, Vietnam loses 5 percent of GDP due to pollution. Last year, Hanoi topped the list of the most polluted cities in South East Asia.

A research study by Yale University found that Vietnam’s PM2.5 index (fine dust with particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers) ranked 170th out of 180 surveyed countries.

A report of GreenID, a non-governmental organization, showed that the PM2.5 index in Hanoi is five times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual average level. The index in HCMC is lower, but is still twice as much as the recommended level.

The sources of air pollution in Vietnam include coal-fired power plants, transport vehicle emissions, industrial emissions, construction activities, waste incineration, household cooking and transboundary pollution.

According to the HCMC Environment Protection Sub-department, air pollution in HCM is mostly caused by transport vehicles. The city has the highest number of motorbikes in the world – 7.3 million – and more than 600,000 cars, which consume 4 million liters of fuel a day.

More than 2.5 million out of 6 million motorbikes that have expired in Hanoi will be recalled in order to mitigate the increasingly serious air pollution, according to Hanoi’s Mayor Nguyen Duc Chung.

Ho Quoc Bang from the HCM Institute of Environment and Natural Resources said the air quality would not improve with increased population, transport vehicles and economic activities.

The reports of the local environment departments in 2014 showed that of 170 factories and production workshops that produced emissions, 81 instant noodle, chemical and dying units did not have emission treatment systems.

A typical characteristic in the 2011-2015 development period was the air pollution caused by thermopower plants. This is why air pollution in the north was more serious than the south: most of the power plants were located in the area.

HCMC’s residents are concerned about a new thermopower plant to be set up in Long An province, which could bring dust to the city and pollute the environment with coal residue ash and industrial waste water.

A research study by WHO conducted at 3,000 spots around the world found particularly high air pollution level in South East Asia, especially in China, Vietnam and Malaysia. 

A research study by Dr Le Viet Phu estimated that 40,000 people died in 2013 because of PM2.5, which meant a loss of 5 percent of GDP.