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Mar 27, 2021 / 18:34

Hanoi: air quality improves in pandemic year but still a concern

Hanoi’s air quality improved in the pandemic period, but locals want more substantial improvements in the aftermath of social distancing.

Lockdown on economic activities have revealed the benefits of reducing air pollution dramatically in Hanoi, according to a report of the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

The lockdown undoubtedly stalled the economy, as major activities, including industrial manufacturing and transportation, are reduced at significant levels.

The report showed that strict measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19, including mass quarantines, nearly one-month nationwide social distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings and mobility contributed to an 8% reduction in pollution exposure in Hanoi.

Hanoi’s air quality improved in the pandemic year of 2020, but locals want more substantial improvements in the aftermath of social distancing.

 Deputy Director of the Hanoi Environment Department Mai Trong Thai. Photo: Viet Hung

Mai Trong Thai, deputy director of the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment told Hanoitimes that despite this economic setback, Hanoi’s air was cleaner and its sky was clearer during the lockdown period.

“The clean air was a positive side effect of the lockdown. The three-week social distancing also provided researchers with an unprecedented natural experiment setting to investigate the trade-off between economic activities and air quality,” Thai said.

Air pollution remains a pressing issue in Hanoi

As soon as the social distancing measures were lifted, Hanoi was bustling and polluted again.

Air quality in Hanoi city improved in 2020 but was still the 12th worst among cities in the world, according to the 2020 World Air Quality Report.

Its average annual PM2.5 concentration improved after worsening for three straight years, the report said.

According to President of the Vietnam Clean Air Network Hoang Duong Tung, air pollution remains as pressing an issue as ever.

“The municipal authorities have blamed large-scale construction, huge amount of private vehicles, intensive industrial activity like steel and cement production, and coal-fired power plants for the low air quality,” Tung told Hanoitimes.

He said each source of emissions need proper measures to tackle. In downtown, Hanoi needs to set policies to control motorcycle emissions, expand public transport and increase the fleet of buses using clean fuels.

 Citizens of Hanoi are suffocated by heavily polluted air. Photo: Pham Hung

Besides, in the long term, Hanoi’s authorities need to soon move polluting factories out of the city, he stressed.

Regarding the above-mentioned issue, Deputy Director Mai Trong Thai said that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is working with the Ministry of Construction and the Hanoi city government to relocate polluting factories away from Hanoi’s downtown.

He added that Hanoi’s authorities are informing real-time air quality indices to help its residents protect themselves and raise awareness over the matter.

Particularly, Thai’s department has been operating 35 automatic air monitoring stations, six surface water monitoring stations, a waste water monitoring station at Nam Son waste treatment complex in Soc Son district, and one mobile air monitoring truck.

"We have invested in rolling out 15 fixed air environmental monitoring stations, three radioactive monitoring equipment, five water monitoring stations, and six underground water monitoring stations. We have set the target to complete the environmental monitoring network in the city in 2021," Thai said.

Besides, Hanoi’s authorities have approved the urban area planning for the northern bank of the Red river.

According to Hanoi’s Construction Master Plan till 2030 with a vision to 2050 approved by the prime minister, the northern bank of the Red river is designed to be a new and modern urban area.

Many experts say this will be a great opportunity for urban development in the area, helping reduce overpopulation and environment pollution in the downtown in the future.

With those measures, both taken and contemplated, experts and people expected that Hanoi air would be clean and the sky would be clear again, but not in the period of social distancing.