Environmental Expert Meeting

Time: 10am -12pm, July 25, 2006
Place: GRIPS, Tokyo
 GRIPS - Prof. Kenichi Ohno, Nguyen Thi Xuan Thuy, Junichi Mori
 Guests – Mr. Kiyoyuki Minato and Ms. Kiyomi Okiyama (Japan Automobile Research Institute, “JARI”), Dr. Naoko Matsumoto (Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, “IGES”), Dr. Kayo Tajima (Rikkyo Univ.)

A meeting among environmental experts with particular attention on urbanization and transport was organized by GRIPS/VDF Tokyo. At the outset, each researcher explained his/her experience and research interest.

Prof. Ohno briefly described VDF’s role in facilitating the motorbike master plan formulation and summarized the contents of past brainstorming sessions. For example, motorbikes play a distinctive role and are well integrated with the society and people’s lifestyle in Vietnam. Motorbikes seem suitable for densely populated cities such as Hanoi and HCMC where streets and allays are narrow and deep. While urban public transport and private cars will surely increase in the future, motorbikes are likely to remain an important means of transportation. Moreover, the stock of motorbikes will continue to grow due to market expansion in rural areas. Reducing air pollution from motorbikes was a key requirement for continued reliance on the use of motorbikes.

Ms.Okiyama Mr.Minato

Mr. Minato said that five systems needed to be strengthened in Vietnam as well as in other Asian countries, in order to mitigate environmental problems: (i) vehicle registration, (ii) automobile inspection, (iii) emissions control, (iv) fuel quality control, and (v) basic environmental statistics. In particular, he stressed the importance of fuel quality control. Even though new and four-stroke motorbikes are increasing in Vietnam, air pollution will not decrease as long as motorbike riders use low-quality fuel containing a large amount of sulfur. He also illustrated other countries’ efforts for emissions control. For example, Thailand promotes the usage of fuel purifier and high-quality lead-free oil. China focuses on clean technology for automobiles such as the compressed-natural-gas engine.

Dr. Matsumoto noted the importance of improving the atmospheric observation system. According to the documents provided at Manila Policy Dialog on Environment & Transport in the Asian Region, Vietnam has only 24 ambient air quality monitoring sites nationwide, including 4 in Hanoi and 5 in HCMC. In contrast, Thailand has 48 stations nationwide. In addition, the quality of monitoring should be improved, such as method, locations and substances to be monitored. She also introduced international efforts to cut air pollution such as the bus-rapid-transit (BRT) system in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the trial use of electric motorbikes in Katmandu, Nepal. She described BRT’s advantages over railways in terms of construction cost and time.

Dr. Tajima wanted to know the market situation of second-hand vehicles in Vietnam. Based on her research in the USA, she suggested enforcing reasonable regulations to prevent the existing stock of low-quality vehicles from worsening air pollution. Introducing new standards such as EURO2, 3, 4 etc. which cover only new vehicles will not help reduce air pollution caused by second-hand vehicles. She also stated that the development of public transportation must be well coordinated with urban planning which determines traffic flows.

Many factual questions were raised by Japanese experts to assess the situation and consider policies in Vietnam. They included average fuel quality and content, shares of 2-stroke vs 4-stroke engine motorbikes, the age profile and quality of existing cars and motorbikes, the number and contents of air pollution monitoring sites, etc. These must be clarified by further research in Vietnam.

[By Junichi Mori]