Liz Hung supports a lot of the imaginative concepts being discussed to make Vietnam “greener” economically and in terms of urban planning.
Consider traffic lights. Hung described how government authorities could collect smartphone data to see which streets are crowded, and then calibrate the stoplights to optimize traffic flow.
Hung and others in the private sector are giving Vietnamese officials their wish list for a green economy, from more renewable energy to buildings that collect rain water for use.
“Road congestion costs us at least 2 to 5% of our [gross domestic product] growth every year because of the time we lost or the high transportation cost, so that is why being smart [in] mobility is very crucial,” said Hung, who is CBRE associate director of Asia Pacific Research.
Hung’s comment highlights the link between good city planning and economic benefits.
Emulating China, Australia
There is also a larger debate about whether the economic benefits outweigh the costs of going green.
There is a financial cost of technology to make Vietnam more efficient. But there also is a security cost, as “smart devices,” like lights connected to the internet, have looser security settings that make them easier to hack.
In looking for inspiration for Vietnam’s future, Hung looked at places from Hangzhou, China, where she heard about the traffic data, to Adelaide, Australia, where authorities installed smart sensors in trash bins, which alert garbage collectors when the bins are nearly full.
If the idea is to increase efficiency, Vietnam should think about energy use, said Tomaso Andreatta, vice chair at the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.
Last month, the chamber held a forum on sustainable cities. In addition to rooftop solar panels and wind turbines, some cities are exploring ways to create energy from things that would otherwise be tossed out.
Trash can be burned, for example, to boil water for steam generators that produce electricity, a process known as waste-to-energy. This does risk increasing carbon emissions or decreasing incentives for recycling, however.
Aiming for zero waste
“More and more we realize that resources are limited, and producing waste destroys the quality of life,” Andreatta said. “Therefore, there’s been a movement worldwide to reducing waste to an absolute minimum, ideally zero.”
He went on to say, “The rapid development of the middle class and its lifestyle, which includes intensive air conditioning use, accounts for a considerable proportion of energy consumption growth.”
It may be the middle class that benefits most from a greener Vietnam, where the private sector steps in to create greater efficiencies, when the government is not involved.
Property developers are building enclosed communities where sustainability is part of the design, whether it’s motion-detecting lights, or insulation that keeps indoor temperatures manageable. One developer introduced pollution warnings. Another made a transportation app just for its residents.
But what about those who are not lucky enough to live in a gated community? Government officials say they are listening to proposals across all sectors. They say that as Vietnam faces a major threat from climate change, it needs to make greater efforts at green planning.
“Climate change will have a big impact on the region,” said Huynh Xuan Thu, deputy chief officer of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Some of the ideas, such as a country full of electric cars, may be a pipe dream or years down the road. But Vietnam is getting started on some of the proposals. In Ho Chi Minh City, officials are looking at traffic sensors and gathering data on congestion, which they hope to reduce through technology in the near future. (VOA)
From sea cucumbers to cancer research, Vietnam and Australia will start collaborating on science initiatives that are meant to show how innovation can be used to spread out the benefits of economic growth evenly to more of the population.
The Australian government has given more than 1.6 million Australian dollars to the three winners of a competition it co hosted with the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam as part of its so-called Aus4Innovation program. The winning teams are three different pairs of universities, one from Vietnam and one from Australia, that will work together on scientific research.
“The innovation partnership between Australia and Vietnam has proven to be an effective mechanism for the two countries to share best practice and models to enhance the innovation systems in both countries,” Vice Minister Bui The Duy from the Ministry of Science and Technology said at the award ceremony in Hanoi last week. “We hope grants provided under the Aus4Innovation program will set examples of how innovation – particularly when it can jointly [be] developed and implemented – can transform our society and deliver economic, social and environmental sustainability.”
One of the grants will center around sea cucumbers, a long spindly marine animal commonly cooked in Asian cuisine, whether fried on their own, or braised with mushrooms and Chinese broccoli. Scientists who received the grant are researching how to produce a hormone they believe can increase the productivity of sea cucumber farming. This matters to Vietnam because it wants its farmers to increase productivity so they can make a sustainable living while not draining so many resources to harm the environment. At the same time, this product could raise questions of nutritional ethics among those who want minimal hormone and other human intervention in their food.
The grant recipients are researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) in Australia and the Research Institute for Aquaculture No. Three (RIA3) in Nha Trang, a touristic beach town along Vietnam’s south central coast known for its many islands.
They competed among 115 groups in Vietnam that applied for the grants and were selected based on their “potential positive economic and social impacts,” the Australian embassy in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, said in a press release.
Another of the three winners is a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the National Health Strategy and Policy Institute (NHSPI) in Vietnam, which are working on a way to improve methods to diagnose breast cancer.
Finally, one of the winning teams will use technology considered part of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” to improve water supply monitoring and treatment. The specific technology was not described, but considering the application, this likely means “internet of things” devices, which are devices such as sensors that have chips to connect them to the internet, so data can be collected. The team is from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the Vietnamese National University of Engineering and Technology (VNU-UET).
“Deeper, stronger ties between our innovation systems is a key goal for our strategic partnership with Vietnam,” Rebecca Bryant, a charge d’affaires at the Australian embassy, said. “I’m delighted to see more and more collaboration between the research institutions of our two countries.” (VOA)