UN chief calls for stronger actions for clean air hinh anh 1Illustrative image. (Photo: VietnamPlus)
Hanoi (VNA) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on countries from all parts of the world to take stronger actions in a bid to improve air quality.

Up to nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air, leading to some 7 million premature deaths each year, Guterres said in a message for the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies 2021 which falls on September 7.

The theme for 2021 is “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet”, highlighting the impact of air pollution on human health, especially in the context of complicated developments of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Secretary-General pointed out that like many social evils, air pollution reflects global inequalities, with most deaths related to air pollution occurring in low- and middle-income countries, and in poorer areas in wealthier nations.

Poverty forces people to live close to sources of pollution, like factories and highways, said Guterres, noting that poverty makes 3 billion people continue to burn solid fuels or kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting.

"The pollution that is damaging our health is also driving the climate crisis," he stressed.

In Vietnam, the terms "air pollution" and "PM2.5 fine dust" were once unfamiliar to local residents but since 2018, when air quality indicators such as PM2.5 at monitoring sites have been updated and publicised on application, people are more concerned over the issue.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), not only big cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City but other provinces and cities like Bac Ninh, Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Binh Duong and Dong Nai have PM2.5 levels higher than the levels regulated by both Vietnam and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Studies conducted by the Air Pollution and Climate Change Research Centre under Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City and a research team from the University of Engineering and Technology under the University of Public Health showed that thousands of people across the country died due to the effects of dust pollution in the 2018-2020 period.

The causes of dust pollution in big cities come from emission sources such as pollutants from vehicles, households, textile and garment sector, seaports, restaurants and construction sites.

Experts suggested that Vietnam should soon have an additional plan to install traditional monitoring stations in provinces and cities with PM2.5 dust concentrations exceeding permitted standard standards.

It was necessary to upgrade and expand the network of air monitoring stations across the country, they said.

UN chief calls for stronger actions for clean air hinh anh 2Burning household waste at Dai Kim ward in Hanoi’s Hoang Mai district. (Photo: VietnamPlus)
Hoang Van Thuc, Deputy General Director of the Vietnam Environment Administration, said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has issued guidelines for making an environmental quality management plan at the provincial level which serves as an important legal tool to carry out air environment protection tasks.

Associate Professor Ho Quoc Bang, Director of the Air pollution and Climate Change Research Centre, said HCM City has initially proposed 13 solutions to control air pollution by 2025 including conducting unexpected emission tests of motor vehicles in circulation, reviewing the number of used cars and motorbikes and pouring money to set up 9 automatic air quality monitoring stations.

However, Thuc also acknowledged that air pollution is a complex issue, related to many fields and of great concern to the community. Therefore, in order to reduce air pollution, it is essential to have collaboration between ministries and sectors as well as the companionship of domestic and foreign experts and organisations.

The UN Secretary-General called on all countries across the world to work together to improve air quality by identifying sources of air pollution and adopt stronger emission standards on vehicles, power plants, construction and industries that can cut pollution.

"I welcome the recent global phase-out of leaded petrol. We must invest in renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Coal use must be phased out," he said.

Guterres also called for the transition to "zero emission vehicles."

"If we take these steps, we can save as many as 150 million lives this century and help clean our atmosphere," said the UN chief.

The UN General Assembly in 2019 designated September 7 as the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, underscoring the importance of clean air for the health and day-to-day lives of all./.