News / Asia

Vietnam Curbs Traffic to Improve Safety, Air Quality

FILE - A motorist talks on his mobile phone while waiting at a traffic junction in Hanoi in this 2011 photo.
FILE - A motorist talks on his mobile phone while waiting at a traffic junction in Hanoi in this 2011 photo.
Vietnam is attempting to combat the traffic-related problems of crashes and smog.
 
Traffic accidents are a leading killer here, especially among teenagers.
 
Roughly 14,000 Vietnamese die each year after a crash, putting this nation of 90 million among the top 10 countries to suffer road-related deaths, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
 
That figure could come down as Vietnam experiments with ways to get more vehicles off the road and more pollutants out of the air.
 
The Ministry of Transport has introduced a raft of proposals, from restricting car access to downtown areas, to investing in more sidewalks and electric vehicles, to changing some school and work hours.
 
That last option, which is meant to reduce traffic during peak hours, has already rolled out in parts of Hanoi, but would expand to Ho Chi Minh City. Each city has more than seven million residents.
 
Trinh Van Chinh, a consultant for the transport ministry, said the change in hours is inconvenient but necessary.
 
“We have to help people understand better that this problem is really urgent.” Chinh said in an interview at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Transport, where he also teaches.
 
Planners hope that by staggering business and school hours, they could cut traffic accidents by as much as 10 percent and cut traffic jams by 30 percent.
 
Some have criticized and even poked fun at the policy.
 
Unclogging congestion
 
But Akira Hosomi, who is helping Vietnam build a metro system through the Japan International Consultants for Transportation, said the policy can succeed because he has seen similar ideas work elsewhere. He said that Singapore charges metro-goers less during non-peak hours in order to control congestion.
 
Besides bringing the country’s first subway system online in the next few years, the transport ministry wants to get more Vietnamese to use city buses.
 
In its latest proposals, it suggesting lower fares and free parking at key transit points where commuters could hop onto buses. Signs have gone up around Ho Chi Minh City, urging residents to take the bus.
 
This would require weaning drivers off the motorbike.
 
In Vietnam, unlike more industrialized parts of Asia, the motorbike still rules the road. That means drivers here are more exposed to pollution, Hosomi said, not to mention collisions.
 
“I think the air pollution in Vietnam, specifically Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is getting more serious day by day,” he said.
 
Hosomi added that the wide availability of cheap fuel contributes to smog. So do four-wheel cars, which is why the government aims to limit them in city centers and charge drivers a fee to go downtown. Officials also want to promote electric vehicles.
 
Car importers balk
 
But Horst Herdtle said that shouldn’t mean discouraging traditional cars. Herdtle is CEO of Euro Auto, which imports BMW cars to Vietnam.
 
He said his cars meet such tough European emission standards before coming to Vietnam that “probably a water buffalo emits more harmful substances than a passenger car.”
 
The government will have an even tougher time controlling vehicles after 2018, when it’ll have to forgo import duties for vehicles from within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
 
The change is part of further regional integration, including an Asean Economic Community that kicks off in 2015. Vietnam halved the auto import taxes this year which used to mean a buyer paid as much as twice the sticker price of a car.
 
At the same time, Vietnam has succeeded in some of its mass-media traffic campaigns. A push for drivers to wear helmets has resulted in a 90-percent compliance rate, according to the World Health Organization.
 
Billboards remind drivers that “Safety comes first” or that this is the “Year of Traffic Safety.”
 
But environmentalist Phan Ha Vy said there aren’t enough campaigns that look beyond safety to include the environment.
 
“There’s so much pollution because people aren’t conscious about the environment,” Vy said.
 
VY lives in Ho Chi Minh City but grew up in Vung Tau, a beach town three hours southeast. She said the streets back home were far cleaner, less crowded; she was more likely to walk outside. Now she rides a motorbike.
 
“Even if I go for a walk here, there’s too much dust,” she said. “So I really don’t want to go out, it’s hard to tolerate.”
 
Most Vietnamese deal with the pollution by donning masks.
 
Many go for walks and exercise outside at the crack of dawn when there are fewer vehicles and the smog hasn’t set in.

You May Like

Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sannidhi from: Hyderabad, India
February 04, 2014 7:23 AM
This is a problem not only with the Vietnam but, around the world. To curb pollution and traffic jams, I think immediate solution is to use public transport(which drastically reduces) and, where it's not possible, it's better if we travel together with others in same vehicle. If 2 people(who drive separate motor bikes) travel in same vehicle, there will be 1 less motor bike on road and hence pollution is 50% lesser. I wonder how much can Govt. and officials do? I think, it's the responsibility of general public too. As people may travel on motor bike, car and cab/taxi, this is where JoinNTravel helps a lot. MUCH BEYOND CARPOOL CONCEPT AND OFFICE HOURS, JoinNTravel is an online platform to help travelers connect with others going by MOTORBIKE, CAR and even by CAB/TAXI! It's 100% free! @ https://joinntravel.com

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid