Sound pollution -- a killer in disguise
Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir
Everyday life of city dwellers especially in the Dhaka city has become full of chaos. Along with several hazards like intolerable traffic jam, extreme air pollution and water pollution; sound pollution has also become a major problem of living in the prominent cities. We are surrounded with waves of harmful sounds whenever we step out of homes.
We are not even safe from sound pollution inside our homes as noise from different sources keeps creeping in. However, most people are unaware of the consequences of being exposed to sound pollution, as they are in the cases of air or water pollution. But this can be a great cause of multiple physical and psychological disorders.
Sound pollution is an invisible killer. We often cannot predict its negative impact on our body and mind. Children and expecting mothers are the main victim of the sound pollution. With rapid urbanization and industrialization, sound pollution situation in Dhaka city as well as in other major cities is worsening by alarming proportion each day.
Sound level is measured in terms of decibel (db). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60db sound can make a person temporarily deaf and 100db can cause permanent deafness. But almost at every areas of Dhaka city, sound regularly exceeds that level which is totally unacceptable for maintaining sound health and mind.
There are several causes of sound pollution and almost all of them exist in Dhaka city. The noise level varies from 60db to 80db on any busy street of Dhaka. The main reason behind this is hydraulic horns. Buses, trucks, minibuses and many other vehicles use hydraulic horns, which can emit around 95-100db sound. It is highly harmful for any human being and especially for the children.
Following a writ petition filed by a human rights organization named Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, the High Court banned the use of hydraulic horns on August 23, 2017. In relation to that, on November 5, 2017 a High Court Division bench directed the government to stop the use of hydraulic horns across the country. This directive was aimed at mitigating the sound generated menace. Excess honking of horns often make us mentally sick. A sudden horn makes us disoriented for a while due to its pressure on our brain. Along with banning of hydraulic horns, the vehicle drivers must be educated not to honk their horns without any strong reason. And the vehicle owners should be compelled to enforce it mandatorily on their drivers or be otherwise punished.
Citizens of Dhaka, the capital city, are additionally affected in three ways in terms of vehicle driven hazard. Firstly, all the trucks, lorries, buses from different districts pass through Dhaka at night. There is no bypass to avoid crossing through Dhaka. Due to extreme sound pollution, it becomes highly difficult for the citizens living by the roads to have sound sleep at night. Secondly, the trains passes through our capital city which is found almost nowhere in the world and that only adds to the noise pollution. Thirdly, the airport is inside of Dhaka city. Airplanes operating there create unbearable noise especially when taking off and people nearby become victims of extreme sound pollution. In many countries, airplane operation is restricted over the capital at night for comforting people but in Dhaka we seem to be out of that luck.
It is very hard to distinguish residential and commercial areas today. Many of the residential areas were turned into commercial areas by senseless business tycoons with assistance of mindless city leaders and political thug, which tend to generate more sound pollution. Some posh Dhaka areas have also been converted to high-rise industrial hubs without caring slightest for the welfare of the hapless citizens. As such, continuous high intensity sound is driving the people in those areas almost crazy.
Construction works at residential areas are another great source of noise pollution. There is no area of Dhaka city where some sorts of construction is not going on. Different machineries are used for construction works which generate strong noise. Brick crushing machines are the biggest sound polluter. During piling activities a lot of sounds are also generated which often do not allow people in the surrounding areas to sleep. The vibrating machine or the mixer machines create unbearable noise contributing to adverse affect over the body and mind of the nearby residents. Besides, the generators of the large construction sites are also a gigantic source of sound pollution. Though there are options to use silencer with these machines mostly that option is not used. Hence, the lives of people are being influenced negatively by these construction works at residential areas.
In most other countries, including the developed ones, there are no industrial buildings or sites in any prominent city areas. But regretfully, there are several industrial areas inside Dhaka city including hundreds of garments, tanneries, auto part processing, dying factories, printing press etc. All these factories and industries use different types of machineries hence creating high intensity noise. People living or moving in those areas are exposed to a dangerously adverse environment especially in consideration of sound pollution. Thousands of children live there and we are at risk of raising droves of hearing-impaired children.
Sound boxes, microphones used in different shops to attract customers are very annoying for people and that is one of the worst forms of sound pollution. Passersby get seriously affected by the loud noise created by those. Moreover, every day we find miking from rickshaws, vans or minivans on our roads for different public and private campaigns causing severe pollution. Now-a-days, political parties and their associate groups join different meetings, seminars with huge processions by beating drums and blowing trumpets to create a festive look but it creates extreme disturbance to the heath and mind of the peace-loving citizens. Other than these, loud shouts, quarrels, fights, canvassers on the street are also creating sound pollution of different extents.
A normal person cannot usually sleep at 45db of noise, at 85db hearing damage begins and at 120db the ear registers pain. The noise of Dhaka City Street averages around 60 to 80db. Here the sounds of vehicles are around 95db, loud speakers 90 to 100db, mills and factories 80 to 90db. But the desired sound level is much lower around 45db, according to a report of Department of Environment (DOE). This gives us a picture of the risk we are bearing in terms of being exposed to extreme sound pollution.
Noise or sound pollution has affects both on our body and mind. It can cause hypertension, high stress level (source of many diseases), hearing loss, sleeping disorder etc. The physiological manifestations of sound pollution may include severe headaches, irritations, nervousness, feeling of fatigue and decreased work efficiency.
We often experience intense arguments and fights on the streets which are driven by the extreme aggression, which is often caused by sound pollution in today's Dhaka city. It is actually destroying our mentality making us intolerant in nature. The children are the most affected from sound pollution as they become victims of several disorders like; lack of focus, eating disorder etc.
Pregnant women may also be greatly harmed. Studies show that, expecting mothers exposed to sound pollution give birth to disabled children and impaired children and get into hardship in life. In a decade from now, we will display several syndromes of severe mental diseases if the sound pollution is not mitigated soon.
There are some laws, rules and regulations focused on mitigating sound pollution in Bangladesh. Like: Environmental Conservation Act 1995, Environmental Conservational Rules 1997, Noise Pollution (Control) Rules 2006 etc. which provides detail guidelines to mitigate the problems of sound pollution. But regretfully, these laws and regulations are rarely enforced. There is no drive to implement those laws. Though the High Court recently directed the government to ban hydraulic horns all around country, no significant drive was visible.
The government must implement all the pollution related laws strictly to mitigate related problems immediately. The NGOs and health organizations should run versatile campaigns to create awareness regarding sound pollution among the citizens.
The law enforcers must ensure that there is no use of hydraulic horns and improper use of microphones, mikes, loudspeakers are completely banned. The authority should initiate drives to remove all commercial and industrial activities from residential areas.
Shifting the airport outside of Dhaka, creating bypass out of Dhaka for all inter-district vehicle movement and removing rail lines from Dhaka city is required for getting rid of sound pollution.
If all these are done simultaneously, then only we will be able to control sound pollution and that will result in a healthy future generation of Bangladesh.
The writer is the Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA)