Noise pollution and health risks
The population of Dhaka is constantly increasing in search of new jobs and the fascination of modern living. As a result, Megacity Dhaka is one of the largest populous cities not only in Bangladesh but also in the world. The number of vehicles, roads, buildings, mega projects etc. is also increasing in Dhaka with the population.
In consequence, Dhaka is becoming an uninhabitable city day by day. The natural environment of Dhaka is being polluted by the pressure of excessive people and vehicles. Air pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution, water pollution, slum problems, etc. are increasing rapidly.
These environmental problems are becoming more and more evident day by day. These are gradually getting out of control. Needless to say, it is especially vulnerable to air pollution and noise pollution.
A few days ago, Bangladesh came to the top of the list of countries with polluted air in the world. Shortly afterwards, occupying the top position of Dhaka in the world on noise pollution has created new concerns.
According to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) titled 'Frontiers 2022: Noise, Blazes and Mismatches' Dhaka is now the world's number one city in terms of noise pollution. Moradabad in India and Islamabad in Pakistan are in the second and third place after Dhaka.
The acceptable noiselevel as directed by World Health Organization (WHO) is 55 decibels in residential areas and 70 decibels in commercial area. But in Dhaka this level is 119 decibels and in Rajshahi it is 103 decibels. So it is easy to guess from this report how terrible the noise intensity of Dhaka and Rajshahi is.
The Noise Pollution (Control) Rules 2006 state that hospitals, educational institutions, offices and courts are quiet areas up to 100 metres away, where no horn can be sounded. But whether it is a hospital, or an educational institution or an office, there is always a jingle of words everywhere.
Although the law prohibits the operation of brick or stone breaking machines within 500 metres from the last boundary of a residential area, no one wants to comply with it. In the case of building construction in Dhaka city, it is often seen that there is no day or night, piling work is going on; brick breaking machines and cement mixers are being used arbitrarily. Tiles / Thai / rod cutting machine, drill machine work is a daily routine.
These construction works go on even in the middle of the night. However, the law stipulates that no construction equipment, including mixing machines, can be operated from 7 pm to 7 am. But who cares! No one seems to have time to pay attention to these rules and regulations!
In pursuance of the aforesaid report, 12,000 people die prematurely each year in Europe due to excessive noise pollution and 48,000 new patients are added to the list of cardiovascular disorders.
In addition, more than 20 million people in Europe suffer from noise. According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion people between the ages of 12 and 35 are at risk of hearing loss due to their involvement in excessively noisy recreational activities.
In Bangladesh too, millions of people are being directly and indirectly affected due to noise pollution. A survey conducted by the DOE a few years ago found that about 12 percent of the country's population has already lost their hearing due to excessive noise. A few years ago, the non-government organization 'Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust' measured the noise in 10 places in Dhaka city and found that on an average about one and a half times more noise is generated than the standard set in Dhaka.
In accordance with the World Health Organization, more than 60 decibels of noise can cause temporary deafness and more than 100 decibels can cause permanent deafness. High levels of noise can cause hearing loss, deafness, heart disease, mood swings, ulcers, hypertension, headaches, memory loss, nerve problems and nausea. Children and adults can be most affected.
Even noise pollution can affect plant pollination; it may reduce crop production. Reproduction of animals, birds and insects may also be hindered. In other words, noise pollution is now not just a pollution, but a kind of noise terrorism, which is silently pushing us to the brink of danger. That is why noise pollution is now being called the 'silent killer' too.
According to various studies, horns of vehicles and motorbikes are one of the sources of noise pollution in Dhaka city. In addition, noise from airplanes, trains, various machinery and industries, horns from battery-powered auto rickshaws, the use of loud speakers or sound systems in political, social and religious events, special days, various festivals and entertainment events and even election campaigns has also been found to be the significant causes of noise pollution.
Since noise pollution is caused by us due to unconsciousness and negligence, it is possible to get rid of it with a little awareness. Traffic jamsis notable cause of noise pollution. And one of the reasons for the traffic jam is the increase in the number of personal cars.
So the number of modern environmentally friendly public transport can be increased by reducing the number of personal cars. This will reduce noise pollution as well as traffic congestion problems.
Studies have shown that hydraulic horns play an important role in noise pollution. Therefore, strict action should be taken to stop hydraulic horn in all vehicles including motorcycles. As well as ensuring that unscrupulous traders do not import, distribute or sell it in any way.
Another reason for noise pollution in Dhaka city is poor traffic system. Therefore, there is no alternative to modernize the traffic system. Modern and digitalized traffic systems should be introduced along with implementation of a lane system on the roads.
Strict measures should be taken to ensure implementation of existing building construction policies and noise pollution regulations to prevent unwanted and unnecessary use of noise generating devices used in construction.
In order to raise awareness among the drivers, owners of vehicles and the general public about the dangers and harms of noise pollution, awareness programmes should be disseminated through various leaflets, social, electronic and print media.
It is also necessary to ensure therenovation and proper implementation of existing law regarding noise pollution. After all, there is no substitute for awareness building. If we are aware and follow the law properly, then it will be possible to easily resist thissilent killer.
Monirul Haque Rony, Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Savar Government College, Savar, Dhaka