A Two City study of Air Quality in Vietnam

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Environmental Sciences


The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes poor air quality as the largest single environmental health risk and attributes 8 million deaths annually to the consequences of exposure to air pollution. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in SE Asia and, as a result, has undergone rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and population growth. This has led to the deterioration of, amongst other factors, air quality, with Vietnam being one of the most polluted countries in the world, ranked 170th out of 180 countries for air quality in a recent survey (Environmental Performance Index, Yale University, 2016).

Air quality monitoring in Vietnam is patchy and many of the previously-reported studies are now quite dated. Given the rapid economic development and the growth of cities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, there is a pressing need for new, up-to-date air quality measurements and a reassessment of the major sources of the observed pollution.

For this study we propose to make measurements of a range of air quality indicators in the 2 largest cities in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City in the south and Hanoi in the north in order to improve our understanding of the concentrations and sources of air pollution in these contrasting environments. Measurements will be made during both the dry and wet seasons when the prevailing winds and likely sources of pollution could be quite different. The UK groups will take a range of analytical equipment to Vietnam which will complement the existing measurements made by the Vietnam partners. These instruments will vastly improve the speciation of measurements currently available, including detailed information on the organic compounds found in both the gas and particulate phase, the latter using novel mass spectrometric detection techniques. This will provide us with significantly enhanced datasets of both gas phase and particulate species which will allow us to better identify the key pollutants for human health and the relative importance of different emissions sources in the 2 cities using various data analysis tools including positive matrix factorisation (PMF).

An important component of the project will be knowledge exchange and capacity building with the Vietnamese partners. This will include the hosting of Vietnamese staff in the UK for several months to learn techniques including particle filter analysis, air sensor technology and the use of source apportionment software such as PMF.

The resultant air pollution database will be the largest and most comprehensive in Vietnam to date and will serve as a valuable resource for future air quality modelling studies, the verification of emission inventories and for the design of effective abatement strategies. To disseminate our findings we will organise a workshop in Vietnam towards the end of the project to which we will invite representatives from various academic, governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Planned Impact

In the longer term the main beneficiaries of our research will be the current and future residents of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These population centres in Vietnam are regularly exposed to poor air quality from a range of sources leading to poor health outcomes. A better understanding of the magnitude and sources of this pollution, which will be key outcomes of the proposed work, will allow better-informed choices to be made about future monitoring activity and potential abatement strategies. The sensor technology in particular represents a potential low cost solution to establishing a more reliable longer-term observational capability which would be attractive to organisations responsible for air quality monitoring, both in Vietnam and in the wider region in general. Sensors are cheaper, smaller, use less power and are simpler to operate than the standard air quality monitoring equipment so will be attractive to countries with less resource.

The results of our work will therefore be of considerable interest to policy makers and other stakeholders in Vietnam. We have identified a number of key governmental and non-governmental organisations in Vietnam with a strong interest in air quality issues. These include the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MARD), the Vietnam Environmental Administration (VEA), the Pollution Control Department (PCD-VEA), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) of Hanoi City and Ho Chi Minh City, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE) of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the Centre for Environmental Monitoring and Analysis - HCMC Environmental Protection Agency (HEPA) and the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) in Hanoi.

To maximise the potential impact of our work these stakeholders will be invited to a workshop to be hosted in Ho Chi Minh City in 2019 where we will present our results. In addition we will advertise our work through press releases and public engagement events in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Finally, the sensor technology providers will benefit from the additional in-field data produced by this study in terms of sensor and instrument performance in a sub-tropical environment.

We have an agreement in place with the Southern Environment Agency in HCMC with whom we will discuss the outcomes of our research (see letter of support).


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Description We have completed 2 successful 4-week field campaigns studying air quality in the 2 largest cities in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. We have produced a comprehensive database of both gas and particulate-phase air pollutants which will serve as a valuable resource not only for the project team, but also for Vietnamese scientists, public health policymakers and other stakeholders. Ongoing data analysis will identify key pollutants present in the 2 cities air and help to identify key source processes and regions. The data can be used to inform pollution mitigation strategies and to assess national and regional emission inventories. These activities have a clear ODA relevance (public health and welfare).

In addition to the field campaign data we have established a small network of portable, low cost sensors in Ho Chi Minh City and are training local operators how to maintain the instruments and work-up the data products. These sensors will provide a valuable extension to the dataset and will allow our Vietnamese colleagues to continue air quality measurements into the future and also enable them to assess pollution levels and public health risks in a larger number of locations.

We have also hosted 2 visiting Vietnamese scientists for 2 months each to train them in aspects of aerosol sampling and data analysis. The visitors made a valuable contribution to the analysis of samples collected during the field campaign and are currently leading the preparation of scientific papers on this work. The project has also supported several Vietnamese students during their studies and has enabled them to present results from the project at various international meetings. This training is an important component of our ODA-relevant activity.
Exploitation Route The dataset will be a valuable resource for Vietnamese scientists, public health policymakers and other stakeholders.The data can be used to inform pollution mitigation strategies and to assess national and regional emission inventories.
Sectors Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Investigating HALocarbon impacts on the global Environment (InHALE)
Amount £5,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/X004120/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2022 
End 11/2026
Description Vietnam National University, University of Science, Ho Chi Minh City 
Organisation Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City
Country Viet Nam 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our Newton-funded project on the study of air quality in Vietnam began in August 2017. Two UK scientists attended meetings in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to plan future measurement campaigns, training opportunities, etc. As well as co-ordinating and taking-part in measurement campaigns in 2018 and 2019, the UK team will provide advice on measurement techniques, practice and quality control and provide training opportunities for Vietnamese partners.
Collaborator Contribution Our Vietnamese partners hosted the planning meetings and will provide independent air quality and meteorological measurements during the upcoming field campaigns. They will identify and prepare suitable measurement sites in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and will organise logistics within Vietnam. UEA hosted the PI from VNU-HCMC for a further planning meeting in January 2018. Our Vietnam partners will also organise a workshop in 2020 to disseminate our results to various stakeholders including local and national government, academics, etc.
Impact Planning for field camapigns is progressing well.
Start Year 2017