To close a year full of exciting activities for the "Clean air, blue sky" campaign, CHANGE has released a series of reportage photos namely “Humans of Air Pollution” with 12 stories sharing the perspectives of people living in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi on the current status of air pollution. They represent the voices of those directly affected by air pollution, the disadvantaged (including those with physical disabilities), as well as artists, students, scientists, all of whom are trying to find solutions to improve air pollution status. “Humans of Air Pollution” reflects the many views and voices of the community on the subject of air pollution, they clearly feel the change of atmosphere through every one of their senses and are struggling with the severe impact of air pollution on their own health as well as that of their families.
“I often sell potatoes and corn on this corner while the dust is obscuring visibility caused by road repairs and heavy traffic. I know it was harmful as I have been coughing for months, but I need the busy traffic so that I can sell my goods and take good care of my family of 3. Well, no matter where my health goes, if I can afford to send my children to go to school, I can accept this.” said a street vendor in the heart of District 9, Ho Chi Minh City,
Significant concern about living with the deteriorating state of air quality and its effects on current and future generations, is clear in every story. Rapper Dinh Tien Dat said, “Planting trees around the house, installing air purifiers, limiting outside activities, limiting the opening of windows, these are all measures that everyone can take to protecting themselves and their families, but these are not the best solutions. While my family is definitely affected by this pollution, people with lower living conditions out there will be affected one hundred times worse.”
Besides the solutions adopted by individual households, there are many innovative ideas proposed by young community groups to bring long-term solutions to air pollution issues, and these give an optimistic view of people’s awareness around improving air quality in Vietnam. Every weekend in Hanoi, young people of the Hanoi Green Group are still diligently planting trees in community areas with the dream of greening the city. During 2 years of operation, Hanoi Green has grown more than 1,500 trees and is planning to expand the model of "urban greening" to provinces such as Ninh Binh, Quang Ninh and Ho Chi Minh City. In Ho Chi Minh City, CHANGE approached and captured the story of a group of students from the University of Economics and Law with an impressive name - "Bitpo". Driven by the horrible realities of breathing exhaust fumes from cars and motorbikes in the rush hour, Bitpo has formulated the idea of a filter using algae and chlorophyll to reduce CO2 from motorcycle or car exhausts. This project has received great feedback from experts based upon its feasibility, low cost, and environmentally-friendly nature. It is now gradually being implemented in consultation with the Polytechnic University, National University and the UPSHIFT program.
Air pollution, fine dust in particular, has been dubbed an "invisible killer" because of the potential for serious health damage, but it is easily forgotten by the community because it does not cause immediate symptoms and this is in contrast to some other diseases. The most noticeable of these is of course the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus strain which has been raging around the world in recent weeks. However air pollution is a killer too, with a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) showing that air pollution is a major cause of premature deaths, killing 7 million people worldwide each year, with 1.7 million of these victims being children under 5 years old.
"Currently, the issue of air pollution needs to receive the attention it deserves and we need everyone, every voice, to join us," said Hoang Thi Minh Hong, director of CHANGE. “Air pollution has terrible impacts on the environment and human health. I find it scary to witness the worsened air quality in Hanoi and HCMC in recent years and children will be the most affected. I strongly oppose the "this is the price paid for economic growth" argument. At CHANGE, we all agree that no growth can compensate for the health of our people, especially our children, and so we work together to build projects that can contribute to the solution of this problem. ”
Also within the wider framework of the "Clean air, blue sky" campaign, CHANGE surveyed and synthesized opinions of 20,000 people across the country on air pollution, the results showed that 75% felt dissatisfied with air quality in the area they live, and 18% of the respondents thought it advisable to apply emission fees for vehicles. Additionally, people want a separate law to be issued to effectively manage air quality, and it is necessary to take policy measures including collecting emissions fees for heavy industries such as iron, steel, cement, thermal power, chemicals as well as tightening emission standards to improve air quality.