Scent of milkwood pine flowers still better than air pollution

16:26 | 12/12/2017 Society

Since late autumn, many living in Hanoi have taken to social media to express their annoyance at the overwhelming scent of milkwood pine flowers, complaining that they are being suffocated by the so-called “scent pollution”.

The complaint is not unreasonable as flowers of milkwood pine trees, one of the capital city’s symbols, give off a very strong fragrance where the trees are planted densely, in stark contrast with the faint sweet smell usually illustrated in songs and poems about Hanoi.

Nevertheless, “scent pollution” is still the most pleasant form of pollution in the increasingly crowded capital city. In a city of more than 7 million people where cars and motorbikes are outgrowing trees, tolerating the smell of milkwood pine in just a few months seems to be a fortunate change compared to living with toxic gases, dusts and other odours from the city’s unhygienic conditions all year round.

According to the General Department for the Environment, Hanoi’s air pollution, especially the amount of particulate matter, has far exceeded the acceptable level. Elsewhere in Vietnam, major cities are also experiencing pollution with a high level of extremely small pieces of dust, but Hanoi is where the problem is the most serious.

Lately, there have been days when Hanoi’s sky looked very grey when the entire capital city was covered in smog. And for years face masks have been an indispensable gear when anyone ventures out of their homes, though such masks could hardly prevent exhaust fumes and dust particles.

A recent study finds that up to 72% of households in Hanoi have members suffer from respiratory diseases and the culprit is all too obvious. Rapid population growth and traffic jams have led to serious air pollution, which is further compounded by emissions from industrial facilities, construction sites and human activities.

The city’s government spends huge sums each year on upgrading the transport network to reduce congestion, planting new trees and improving the environment but such efforts seem disproportionate to what is needed. New trees are planted in one neighbourhood but in another quarter, they are chopped down, including old and large trees. The area of water surface also grows smaller year after year as lakes and ponds give way to high-rise buildings and shopping malls. Furthermore, the public bus network remains relatively unreliable despite improvements in recent years and two metro lines, which are under construction, are years behind their scheduled opening dates.

That being so, the sweet scent of milkwood pine flowers, though sometimes too overwhelming, remains a piece of luck and a lovely feature of Hanoi.

Theo NDO