SOUND pollution in big cities has become a major public health concern. A study that Stamford University Bangladesh and Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan conducted shows that the situation, with the limits being exceeded, is at its worst in the capital. Noise was recorded on 70 city locations between 6.00am and 9.00pm in December 14–22, which included four holidays and five work days. They recorded the level of sound pollution in the secretariat area, declared a silent zone on December 17, 2019, at 128 decibels, three times the permissible limits for such zones. The World Health Organisation sets out that below 25dB is normal and 91–120dB is considered an intolerable level. In nine other silent zones, sound level has been more than 70dB for the most part of the day which is considered extreme. Noise pollution in Chattogram, Sylhet and Khulna is similar. In December 2018, the environment department in Khulna reported that sound crossed the limit of 60dB in most city areas. Although rules have been made to reduce sound pollution, a lax enforcement has led to a decline in the situation.
Despite the government ban on the use of hydraulic horns and hooters, they have been widely in use. The Noise Pollution (Control) Rules 2006 was adopted under Section 20 of the Environment Conservation Act 1995 with a view to laying down specific guidelines on noise pollution and the degree of allowable noise in different areas. Its enforcement, however, remains largely elusive. Studies have identified the major contributors to sound pollution, but no steps have been taken to end indiscriminate noise-making. The study observed that motorcycle horns produce more shrill sound and the level is as high as 125dB whereas buses and trucks produce 120–122dB. Bangladesh Road Transport Authority statistics show that the number of registered motorcycles increased to 4,69,888 in April 2018 from 2,10,081 in 2010. The number of registered cars has also made a sharp increase. The increase in the number of registered vehicles, therefore, highlights the importance of a measured policy in this regard. What is most important in controlling noise pollution is to create public awareness of its harmful consequences.
In accordance with WHO guidelines, exposure to sound above 60dB can cause temporary deafness and prolonged exposure to sound above 100dB can lead to hearing impairment, hypertension and more. The health impact of noise pollution has already been manifested in police personnel working on the roads in Dhaka with about 33.9 per cent reported having trouble in hearing low sound. The government needs to develop a multi-pronged approach to curb noise pollution in major cities and strictly enforce the regulations and run awareness campaigns.
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