Making news

Schools could be forced to close on ‘bad air’ days

Vietnam may order schools to shut down on days when the air quality is poor, according to the draft law revising the 2014 Law on Environment Protection.

There are also provisions being discussed to reduce the amount of traffic in urban areas and close factories on days when pollution levels are high.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) said the emergency declaration when air pollutants concentration rise to dangerous levels was included in the draft law.

The Prime Minister will be responsible to adopt national action plans, task municipal people’s committees and MoNRE to implement emergency measures in case air quality witnesses a drop on inter-provincial and inter-regional scale.

Le Hoai Nam, head of the ministry’s Environment Quality Management Department, said the declaration would be based on air quality monitoring indicators, environmental incidents or extreme weather events.

According to Nam, heads of provincial people’s committees will take responsibility to develop air environment protection plans.

“The plan includes the assessment of air quality and status quo in each locality, lists major emission contributors and presents potential solutions,” said Nam.

“The draft law does not specify the measures to be taken when declaring an emergency. Detailed measures will be adopted by local authorities based on their conditions.”

Meanwhile, the draft law offers possible solutions which may be used when air quality drops to unhealthy levels including suspension of factories, school closures or traffic bans in urban areas.

Nghiem Trung Dung, former head of Institute of Environmental Science and Technology under Hanoi University of Science and Technology, said local authorities should consider evacuating people in case of air pollution emergency.

MoNRE blames the amount of motor vehicles for reducing air quality, especially in big cities. During the social distancing period, air quality was improved significantly compared to the same period last year.

The ministry proposes to task provincial authorities to classify vehicles based on types of fuel, emissions and age to reduce air pollution.

The Government is asked to offer incentives to encourage people switch to public transportation and green vehicles as well as develop a plan to eliminate vehicles using fossil fuel./.