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26 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 26 March, 2018 01:26:00 AM

Noise pollution: Can’t it be kept within limit?

Saidur Rahman
Noise pollution: Can’t it be kept within limit?

Noise or sound is an integral part of human life. Absence of sound means absence of any activity of life. A new born baby pronounces its emergence or arrival in the world with a piercing cry. According to the holy Quran,  with the trumpet blown by the Angel Israfil the world will cease to exist one day, i.e. the great doomsday will begin. Muezzins give Aazan (summons to prayers) from mosques calling the devotees to daily five time’s prayers. Thousands of people, particularly lovers of nature, go near the sea to hear the roaring sound of the surging waves of the sea. Sound of rain in a tin-roofed house is quite enjoyable, particularly at night. Who does not enjoy the chirping of birds? Sweet notes of cuckoos during the spring season? An expert musician or a singer can enthral the audience through his or her melodious voice. Apu and Durga, the principal characters in ‘Pather Pachali’, the famous novel by Bibhutibhushan Bondopaddhya, would go to the railway tracks  covering a vast field from their house in their childhood days to hear the whistle of train. But when this noise or sound crosses the limit it is bane for human beings instead of boon.

Noise pollution affects both health and behaviour. Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleep or conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life. Unwanted sound (noise) can damage psychological and physiological health. Noise pollution can cause hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.

Chronic exposure to noise may cause noise-induced hearing loss.  Older males exposed to significant occupational noise demonstrate more significantly reduced hearing sensitivity than their non-exposed peers, though differences in hearing sensitivity decrease with time and the two groups are indistinguishable by age 79. High noise levels can result in cardiovascular effects and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight-hour period causes a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and an increase in stress , and vasoconstriction leading to the increased blood pressure  noted above, as well as to increased incidence of coronary artery disease.

There is no denying the fact that noise pollution has become a major nuisance for the inhabitants of the burgeoning capital city Dhaka and other cities and towns of the country in recent times.  It is showing no sign of abatement. It is one of the many menaces that plague the lives of the citizens. There was a time when residents of Dhaka could move peacefully from one place to the other in the city. They did not have to face that much hassle; there was no ear-splitting traffic snarl, no traffic congestion in those days. Newspapers carry reports   projecting high noise pollution in Dhaka city and other places in the country from time to time.  

With the rapid urbanisation, Dhaka saw high rise in population. The city has become a bursting megacity now with all its attendant evils, noise pollution being one of them. Honking of horns of vehicles, sound of breaking bricks and stones by machines during construction works, use of heavy and noisy equipment and loudspeakers, sound caused by industrial units, sound of grill making workshops, welding shops, sound of generators, high volume of music from audio video shops and residences of individuals during wedding ceremonies and religious gatherings are the main sources of noise pollution in the city in recent times. There are also vendors who go on selling their merchandise on the roads, lanes and by-lanes in vans with loudspeakers describing the qualities of the merchandise.  

According to environmentalists, sound decibel in Dhaka city is in danger level compared to any other cities in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), generally 60 decibel sound can render a person deaf temporarily and 100 decibel can cause complete deafness. The noise of any busy street in Dhaka has been estimated at 60 to 80 decibels, with the sound of hydraulic horns measuring 95 decibels. It is unfortunate that the authorities could not implement the Sound Pollution Control Act-2006. It is gathered that the limit of sound that is one and a half to two multiplies higher than the tolerable limit. Save the Environment Movement, an organisation,  has recorded 84-100 decibel sound in the peaceful area at daytime, 84-93 in the residential area, 88-102 in the mixed area, 86-103 in the commercial area, which are one and a half to two multiplies higher than the tolerable limit. A survey conducted by the Department of Environment (DoE) said the sound level was beyond the permissible limit in summer.

It was more than double the limit in some areas. According to Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon the Sound Pollution Law does not allow installation and use of building construction equipment within a 500-meter radius of a residential area or dwelling houses. But the law is hardly followed by the developers. Similarly, the Noise Pollution (Control) Rules-2006 prohibits honking of horns within a 100-metre radius of hospitals, educational institutions and offices. The rules also make mandatory taking prior permission for using loudspeakers. But who cares? Students, particularly examinees, patients in hospitals and clinics bear the brunt of noise pollution.

Ours is a country with most of the people devoid of rationality and common sense. There are people with macho habits and temperaments. They care a fig to abide by the law of the land. They are causing more harm than good to this city. Unscrupulous drivers of vehicles keep on blaring horns without rhyme or reason. Wayward youths keep on playing music with high volumes near roadsides, much to the annoyance of the wayfarers. On the Eid days youths of different localities are seen celebrating with high volumes of music, much to the annoyance of the residents of those localities. Besides, rock musical sessions are arranged on the rooftops of houses during marriage ceremonies by the people who have no respect for others conveniences. This kind of sound pollution mars the sleeps of the people living in the areas. This kind of nuisance is mostly created by the neo-rich people bereft of human values. Peace-loving neighbours have to endure these silently fearing reprisals.  Mushroom growth of workshops and welding shops has also contributed to noise pollution in the city.  

According to physicians, noise pollution may cause physiological and psychological problems, hypertension, high stress level, obsession, headache, sleeplessness, neurological disorder and even heart disease. Noise pollution also causes to decline learning ability of children. The rate of dumbness among children will go out of limit if the prevailing sound pollution cannot be stopped, said a specialist physician. A WHO study revealed that dumbness is rapidly increasing in the world. About 15 per cent people, mostly children, are suffering from hearing problem, while five per cent from dumbness, which is affecting their daily activities seriously.

Noise from roadways and other urban factors can be mitigated by urban planning  and better design. Roadway noise can be reduced by the use of noise barriers, limitation of vehicle speeds, alteration of roadway surface texture, limitation of heavy vehicles, use of traffic controls that smooth vehicle flow to reduce braking and acceleration, and tire design. An important factor in applying these strategies is a computer model for roadway noise that is capable of addressing local topography, meteorology, traffic operations, and hypothetical mitigation. Costs of building-in mitigation can be modest, provided these solutions are sought in the planning stage of a roadway project.

It is high time that the relevant authorities to act. The department of environment cannot avoid its responsibility. Law enforcement agencies have a vital role to play in this regard. What is needed is creation of mass awareness against noise pollution.  The people and the organisations responsible for causing noise pollution should be reined in.  There should not be any laxity where public health is concerned.

The writer is Assistant Editor of The Independent                 




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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