Sunrise on Cat Ba Island                       Sunset on West Lake, Hanoi

Many parts of Vietnam are beautiful – from the beautiful mountain ranges to the sea coast that runs along the east side of the country for 3444 km and that does not include the islands [i] . This is the land where my parents came from and where they lived during their childhood. It was a place that provided them with their childhood life. Although life was much simpler back then, Vietnam is trying to pursue a better life. Vietnam is desperately developing everywhere they can so that they can move the GDP ladder to compete with the rest of the world and a price [ii] . Living amidst this development scene, it is not hard to see the local Vietnamese face every day.

One of the biggest problems that exist in Vietnam, at least from what I have seen in the past two months is air pollution. One of the biggest contribution to this problem lies in transportation [iii] . Hanoi is simply too crowded with many streets, lots of people, cars and many, many motorbikes. Within Hanoi, motorbike is the easiest way to travel to and from due to its size and mobility. However, the city is small compared to where I came from, Toronto. Yet, the people here use their motorbikes to travel everywhere they go because the roads are difficult to walk in, resulting in the belief where 1 km of walking is too far for them. As such, the heavy reliance on the motorbike has has caused increasing numbers of motorbikes on the road making the already problematic situation, worst.

      Traffic during my ride home.

While transportation is one of the biggest factors, many other actions that the locals choose to do also affect the amount of air pollution that is emitted. It seems that some of the locals have a habit of dealing with their own trash rather than letting the city take the garbage. These people do so by burning it. Food waste, construction waste and even plastic waste, everything is set on fire in open air, letting the fumes fly into the sky.


Burning waste near my apartment and at another site seen during one of my nightly walks.

Combating air pollution is critical in Hanoi, Vietnam as it is a threat to human health [iv] . Fortunately, these problems are being slowly tackled in Vietnam through the efforts of the local government and NGOs, like my organization. Difficultly, my organization attempts to tackle air pollution from all possible areas, from education to businesses. Through informing and engaging the locals to participate in a clean city, it will be able to foster a new way of life for the future generation. Vietnam, in particular Hanoi is achievable. Small steps have been made to attract the public’s attention to the social media and events, schools have begun to include pollution in the curriculum, but the progress has not been significant. However, this is coming from my perspective which had only seen the development side of the world. As such, by coming into the developing scene, it is important to switch perspectives and think in an international developing mind. With this, these changes and implementations are not useless, but heading to a brighter future with a strong force. Although the goal seems impossible to reach at the moment, the reality is that the process is only slow and difficult as they figure out what development suits them best.  

Ages of effort have been made by Vietnamese people and tackling air pollution is only another step in its path in becoming a developed, yet still beautiful country.