Once completely impoverished and now moving forward with a fast-growing economy, Vietnam has changed a lot over the years. Because of the rapid growth of the economy, however, the environment has suffered substantially. Today, young people are taking charge of the situation.
One group calls itself the Carp Team. Positioning themselves by bridges, they carry signs saying “don’t drop nylon bags with the fish.” Seven days before Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year, families traditionally release three fish into nearby water to accompany the Kitchen God when he reports back to the Jade Emperor. Unfortunately, many people releasing the fish also dump the plastic bags they came in, often harming the fish, not to mention the environment around them. The Carp Team hopes to make more people aware of the detrimental effects of this kind of water pollution.
Vietnam’s growth has been a big factor in this kind of environmental issue. In the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, Vietnam was rated 136 out of 178, with a rating of 170 for air quality. These low scores put the country behind China (which is at 118), though China still reigns when it comes to air pollution, thanks to smog in large cities like Beijing.
Still, bigger cities in Vietnam are suffering, too. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in particular are struggling with growing environmental issues, and more and more grassroots organizations such as the Carp Team are stepping up to address the problems.
There have been government initiatives as well. In order to address pollution problems in bigger cities, the Vietnamese government is putting together a government roadmap that will tighten emissions standards for the growing number of registered motorbikes (there are now about 37 million, up from 32 million in 2008). Since pollution from combustions engines is one of the leading causes of pollution in Vietnam, the government is hoping these sorts of standards will alleviate the problem going forward.
Ultimately, the biggest concern is building the country’s economy while also preserving its environment and natural resources for future generations.