Air pollution in Hanoi is worsening and has reached dangerous levels this week, according to official data.
Many locals are worried that the capital city is becoming another Beijing while environment officials said the situation is bad, but not that bad.
The Real-time Air Quality Index on aqicn.org on recent days ranked the pollution in Hanoi as “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy,” which means outdoor exertion should be limited for everyone.
Aqicn.org uses data collected from Vietnam Center for Environment Monitoring from the environment ministry, the United Nations International School of Hanoi and the US Embassy in Hanoi.
The index in Hanoi on Tuesday morning reached the “hazardous” 388, a level in which everyone may experience more serious health effects and everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion, according to the site.
The peak index has prompted several local media outlets to compare Hanoi with Beijing, whose air pollution usually scores above 300.
But Hoang Duong Tung, deputy director of the Environment Department at the environment ministry, said the index at one moment is not enough to put Hanoi in the same group with Beijing.
A proper comparison will require data over a period of time, Tung said.
“Hanoi’s pollution is not so heavy as Beijing,” Tung said, as cited by Tien Phong newspaper.
But he admitted that air-pollution in Hanoi is a long-lasting problem, especially with the exceeding concentration of fine particles and ozone, which can cause adverse health effects at ground level.
Traffic is the leading cause of air pollution in Hanoi. Photo: Hoang Anh/Zing
Hanoi government already raised warnings about the air quality of the capital city in 2004, when all pollutants measured went beyond safe limits.
The figures have kept increasing. The National Environment Report in 2013 showed the air quality in Hanoi was poor most days of the year.
French company ARIA Technologies in 2012 ranked Hanoi the most polluted city in Southeast Asia and among those with the worst air pollution in Asia, with the dust concentration exceeding recommended levels many times.
Jacques Moussafir, director of ARIA which specializes in computation of pollutant dispersion and air quality modeling, said that traffic was the main cause of air pollution in the city.
He said Hanoi’s pollution at the time was as bad as in New Delhi and Karachi, two of 10 most polluted cities in the world.
He warned that the number of people suffering from severe respiratory and mental health damage from air pollution would double in 2020 if nothing is done to fix the problem.
Little has been done, especially with the traffic problem, as 18,000-20,000 new motorbikes and 6,000-8,000 new cars are registered in the city every month.
The numbers are expected to rise from 2018 when several vehicle taxes are cut, going up to nearly one million cars and seven million motorbikes by 2020, Hanoi chairman said at a meeting last December.
Officials said road constructions and industrial operation with little regard to environment have also worsened the capital's air quality.
Statistics from the health department at the transport ministry meanwhile showed that Hanoi is much more polluted than Ho Chi Minh City and has a bigger respiratory disease issue.
Its people have to spend twice as much money on respiratory treatments than those in the southern metropolis, according to the department.