People from all walks of life should join hands to protect the environment through small practical deeds.

This is the message from the “20 seconds for green Earth” project, which encourages commuters to switch off their engines at red lights to reduce the amount of emissions.

Air pollution has become increasingly serious as a result of 6 million bikes travelling in the city.

The level of lead rose by a maximum of 36 percent in 2013 over the previous year, according to the municipal Department of Environmental Protection.

Professor Nguyen Van Phuoc, President of the Institute for Environment and Natural Resources, said ecological pollution is a festering issue in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City in particular due to rapid urban development and the increase of gases from vehicles and industries.

It is also blamed for deteriorating public health and contributing to the greenhouse effect, Phuoc added.
The number of people suffering from respiratory problems - mainly caused by polluted air - accounts for 3-4 percent of the population, according to Nguyen Dinh Tuan, former Rector of the Natural Resources and Environment University.

Statistics also indicate that the percentage of people with breathing difficulties in developing cities such as Hanoi , Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong is 4-5 times higher than that in poor localities like Dien Bien and Bac Can.

Ho Chi Minh City has employed various measures to control air quality. For example, commuters are encouraged to use clean fuel such as ethanol and biological oil to reduce gas emissions.

The city is also piloting a number of buses running on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) – a clean fuel, which has proved effective and saved around 30 percent of fuel costs.

Municipal authorities have also concentrated on developing green industry and clean manufacturing technology.

Environmentalists said residents are the main participants in activities causing environmental pollution and they themselves have to incur the consequences. Therefore, protecting the environment is not only the responsibility of local authorities but also of each citizen, experts said.

Sharing this viewpoint, Professor Phuoc stressed the need to call on the whole community to take part in the environmental management system, and the public should be informed of statistics relating to the field and enhanced awareness of the issue.

Additionally, it is suggested that residents are encouraged to change their daily habits that badly affect the environment and use public transport or bicycles.-VNA