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Vietnam Environmental Export Market Plan
Chapter 9 - Air Pollution

Current Trends

Vietnam has set a number of guidelines on emissions (Table 9.1), but the uncontrolled growth of poorly maintained, lead-fueled vehicles has led to deteriorating air quality in Vietnam's major cities. Vietnam has an estimated 400,000 cars/minibuses and over 5 million motorbikes swarming its streets. If drivers and transport companies even know about the emissions regulations, they are widely disregarded. Vehicle emissions have a direct impact on public health, causing respiratory infections, particularly among young children. High blood pressure and heart problems are also health concerns associated with lead-fueled vehicle emissions.

According to regulations issued in 1995 by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (MOSTE), "all means of transportation within cities must have a smoke emission level of less than sixty hartridge units and must not discharge any polluting agents into the environment." For those vehicles with operation permits issued prior to the issuance of the Law on Protection of the Environment, the owners "must apply technical measures to limit the maximum emission level of smoke and toxic waste into the environment."
Table 9.1 Vietnamese Air Emissions Standards (milligrams per cubic meter)
Average Emissions
in 1 hour
in 8 hours
in 24 hours
Source: Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment.

Lead concentrations in the air are well above permissible levels in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This is largely because all vehicles in use in Vietnam use leaded gas. Virtually none of the old trucks, buses, and three-wheeled vehicles on Vietnam's streets use any pollution controls. The main pollutants emitted by these vehicles are lead, lead additives, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matter.

In 1995, the government initiated a proposal to phase out the use of leaded fuel in Vietnam. The proposal was never carried out. In December 1999, the Ministry of Transport, the U.S.-Asia Environmental Partnership, and the World Bank sponsored a workshop on phasing out leaded gasoline, and again an action plan was drawn up. Eliminating leaded fuel is considered economically feasible in Vietnam because the country imports all of its petroleum products, removing the need for costly upgrades to existing refineries. In addition, most of the vehicles on Vietnam's roads can use either leaded or unleaded fuel. Finally, Vietnam stands to save money if it switches to unleaded fuel, because it is less expensive on world markets than leaded fuel.

In Hanoi, carbon monoxide levels are 1.7 to 1.9 times higher than permissible levels; nitrogen dioxide is 2.5 to 3.0 times higher; settled particulates are 50 to 60 times higher; and suspended particulates are 8 to 10 times higher. In some areas of Ho Chi Minh City, sulfur dioxide and dust levels are four times higher than standards set by MOSTE.

In addition to motor vehicles, leading sources of air pollution include power plants, cement mills, chemical plants, steel mills, and industrial manufacturing. Because of poor urban planning and overcrowding in cities, industrial manufacturing is located in heavily populated urban areas. Many of these industries use antiquated machinery and are high polluters. The Ministry of Industry estimates that most manufacturing equipment is 50 to 100 years out of date. A survey of 42 factories found that 70 percent of newly imported equipment dated back to the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the equipment was built as early as the 1920s.

The government also blames the importation of second-hand equipment for increasing air pollution. More than half the machinery imports are second-hand, mainly from Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, and China.

The main industrial air pollutant is smoke from fuel oil and coal.Most plants use fuel oil for energy. Gas exhausts from steel plants and dust particulates from cement plants are other leading causes of air pollution. The Center for Environmental Science and Technology (CEFINEA) is a leading air pollution research institution in Ho Chi Minh City and also sells air treatment equipment to domestic companies. CEFINEA has installed air treatment facilities at major steel manufacturing plants, such as POSVINA (Ho Chi Minh City) and Phuong Nam Steel Plate Co. (in Bien Hoa I industrial zone).

CEFINEA has conducted studies of air pollution, primarily in the industrialized south. It found that most plants use old equipment without any air treatment systems. Those that use treatment systems tend to use wet-filter systems supplied locally. Some local firms, such as the Bien Hoa and Thu Duc Steel factories, have installed treatment systems from abroad which use dust filtering and carbon monoxide treatment systems. While new cement plants, or those built with foreign investment have installed modern air treatment systems (capable of filtering more than 90 percent of dust volumes), numerous local plants in the south (Ha Tien, Binh Dien, and Quan Khu 7 Cement companies) have not yet installed dust-filtration systems. CEFINEA has found that leading chemical and detergent producers (Thu Duc Chemicals, Tan Binh Chemicals, Bien Hoa Chemicals, Daso Detergent, Tico Detergent) are primary sources of gas exhausts (SO2 , Cl, HCL). With the exception of some foreign-built plants (CP Group, Cargill), few food processing and animal feed companies have installed modern dust treatment lines.

Instead of requiring firms to install pollution-abatement equipment, the government's primary solution to air pollution in urban areas appears to be moving companies from urban to less-populated areas or industrial parks. In June 1998, the Hanoi People's Committee issued Instruction 36/CT-TW, allowing city authorities to force polluters to move from population centers. Sixty companies were targeted for relocation immediately, and 67 others were told to move by 2020. None of the companies have moved, and the bureaucracy and cost involved with shifting companies from one location to another has delayed the plans indefinitely.

Market Opportunities and Competitive Situation

There have been few major initiatives to reduce air pollution overall. In general, it is only the large foreign-invested enterprises that have invested in modern pollution-control equipment, such as filters and scrubbers for cement mills. Some domestic enterprises may be fitted with filters or, less frequently, scrubbers, but these systems tend to be old and inefficient for reducing dust particulates.

To date, there has been limited ODA funding for air pollution abatement efforts. Most of the ODA efforts have been directed toward building air-monitoring stations as a first step toward reducing air pollution. Current methods of checking air pollution levels are uncoordinated. In Ho Chi Minh City, for example, four different local companies have been contracted to measure air quality at different locations using mobile stations. Each company uses different, incompatible equipment, so an accurate and consistent data base has yet to be compiled.

The Asian Development Bank's Ho Chi Minh City Environment Improvement project includes an air-quality monitoring component. The bank intends to identify key air pollution sources and develop an air pollution tracking database. The results of the studies will be used to develop air quality legislation and action plans for reducing air emissions.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) will provide co-financing of $1.8 million for equipment and training of local personnel. Six air monitoring stations are to be introduced:

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) initiated the first air-quality monitoring project in Ho Chi Minh City as part of its $2.3 million environmental management project (VIE/96/023). The project will measure ambient air, urban background, and residential and industrial air pollution levels.

The project includes co-financing from Denmark, valued at $700,000, for the installation of four air-monitoring systems. Instrumatics A/S of Denmark won the tender for supplying the monitoring stations, which will be capable of monitoring:

Although the contract was awarded to a Danish company, American companies may also benefit. Instrumatics has proposed buying some key equipment for the stations from a U.S.firm. At the time of publication, project sponsors were considering the Instrumatics proposal. The first monitoring station was scheduled to be operating by March 2000.

The ADB air-monitoring program will expand upon the UNDP initiative. Significantly, the Asian Development Bank has agreed to use equipment that is compatible with equipment currently being procured by the UNDP.

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