Vietnam has taken aim at urban air pollution.
On June 17, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved a six-year plan that seeks to regulate the emissions of the nation's roughly 25 million registered motorbikes. The move comes nearly two years after the Euro II emission standards went into effect for new cars and bikes.
The VND250-billion (US$13.2 million) project will set up its first emission test sites in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where air pollution is most severe. The plan seeks to establish at least 100 emission testing facilities in Hanoi and another 150 in HCMC.
Under the approved plan, 20 percent of motorbike users in Hanoi and HCMC are expected to have their vehicles tested and modified to meet emissions standards by 2013. The hope is to have 80-90 percent of big city motorbikes in compliance with new regulations by 2015. Less crowded cities are expected to have 60 percent of their registered motorbikes tagged with emission stamps in the same year.
Once in effect, drivers can expect to pay approximately VND50,000 (US$2.6) to have bikes inspected. Motorbike riders caught on the road without a qualified stamp will be fined VND300,000 and be ordered to have their bikes inspected. If those bikes fail to pass, owners will pay an additional VND200,000, according to the Vietnam Register.
The plan asks motorbike manufacturers and maintenance facilities to invest in the effort. As an incentive, the plan offers organizations and individuals preferential import taxes on equipment brought into the country to help mitigate pollution. The project will call for international support and the participation of all economic sectors.
An official from the Vietnam Register added that they would prepare a more detailed plan for the project's implementation. The first target for inspection would be motorbikes older than ten years, followed by those used for more than seven years and so on. The ultimate goal of the plan is to create an annual compulsory test, the official said.
According to Vietnam Register statistics, Hanoi and HCMC have around six million registered motorbikes. More than half of the bikes, 59 percent in Hanoi and 52 percent in HCMC, fall short of basic emission standards.
More than half of the motorbikes in Vietnam failed to meet these requirements after three years in use, the agency added.
A 2009 study in HCMC found air quality has reduced to alarmingly low levels from pollution caused by exhaust fumes from vehicles.
Air quality monitoring stations at six major intersections have recorded an average dust concentration of 0.37-0.68 milligrams per cubic meter, which is 1.5-2.5 times higher than the level deemed safe.
Highly toxic carbon monoxide is on the increase, with a concentration of 0.22-0.38 micrograms per cubic meter, up to 1.5 times higher than in the last months of 2008.
The chronic presence of these contaminants in the air can cause acute pneumonia and bronchitis, and speed up aging, according to Health Department officials.