Air Pollution in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, has undergone rapid urbanisation and economic growth. Today, 8 224 400 citizens are in need of transport. The most popular means of transport chosen for the daily commute: the motorcycle. In 2006, a total of 2 895 831 vehicles plastered the streets of the dynamic metropolis satisfying 80% of total travel needs (while automobiles accounted for mere 6%).

High concentrations of pollutants (total suspended particles, NO2, O3, etc.) exceed acknowledged air quality standards. 90% of children under the age of five suffer from respiratory illnesses. From 2003 to 2005, 28 000 children (<5a) had to be admitted to Ho Chi Minh City’s hospitals due to acute lower respiratory infections.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are produced by high-temperature reactions, such as the combustion of fossil fuels. PAHs are highly allergenic and carcinogenic posing a severe threat for human health.

Motorcycles, putting aside all environmental concerns, are the ideal means of travel: they are cheap, as is the required fuel, and readily facilitate flexible travels. The same praise does not hold for public transport. Bus services are rare and generally impractical. The Vietnamese government, recognizing public transport as the key solution to its severe pollution problem, has put forth a master plan to get people off their motorbikes. First proposed in 2001, 6 metro lines are to be build in the city. The first line of the network, originally scheduled for completion in 2017/2018, will open in 2020. To leverage ridership and maximise the desired result, metro fares will be kept very low (VND 2 500 = USD 0.11).

The installation of an efficient public transport system lies at the core of reducing air pollution. Once this has been achieved, Ho Chi Minh City’s citizen will be able to breath clean air again.

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Clean Air Initiative for Asian City Centers, Inc. (2010) Clean Air Management Profile: Vietnam

Hien et al. (2007) ‘Comparison of particle-phase polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and their variability causes in the ambient air in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and in Osaka, Japan, during 2005–2006’, Science of the Total Environment, 382, 70-81.

Ho et al. (2011) ‘Air pollution forecast for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2015 and 2020’, Air Quality, Atmosphere, and Health, 4, 145-158.

Railway Gazette International (2014) ‘Ho Chi Minh City selects underground contractors’ (

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