Sound pollution remains a serious health hazard in Dhaka city. What should the authorities concerned do to get rid of the problem?

opd01Dhaka city is now regarded as one of the most hazardous cities in the world.
Apart from air pollution, large population, risky high rise buildings and unplanned land utilisation, sound pollution has become one of the major crises in Dhaka city. Due to a large number of people living in Dhaka city and unplanned roads and a large number of vehicles, sound pollution has increased day by day. People have also become restless on the road because of long tailbacks there. Horns of vehicles, therefore, honk repeatedly causing noise pollution which has a negative impact on human health.
However, we cannot expect instant solution to these issues; but if the authorities take a few measures given below public sufferings can at least be mitigated to some extent.
1. Planned housing: The housing areas should be built in a planned manner. This can provide adequate space for vehicles to move around and repeated honking of horns, thus, can be stopped.
2. Appropriate planning for schools, hospitals and shopping malls can reduce sound pollution. If we allocate proper places for hospitals, schools and shopping malls we will be able to control the movement of vehicles properly.
3. Traffic signals: Traffic signals should be given in accordance with traffic rules and these should be monitored with proper control. We must ensure compliance of these rules in order to avoid unnecessary sound pollution.
4. Direction boards: We must use direction boards stating where no horn is supposed to honk. We need to ensure that everyone follows these directives. For example, no honking of horns should take place near schools and hospitals and in residential areas. If these directives are followed, we can reduce sound pollution.
5. Charging fees: The government should start charging fees for unnecessary honking of horns. If someone does not comply with the rules and regulations, he/she will have to pay fines for that misconduct.
None should remain above the law. If we all can enforce rules and regulations and teach our family members to follow the rules, we can rebuild our dream city that is Dhaka city.
Farah Naz Haque
Dhanmondi, Dhaka

Sound is one of the key elements of the natural environment. It is related with the existence of human beings. But sometimes it becomes a cause of harm and threat for mankind when it is polluted. Dhaka is the tenth largest city of the world, where around 15.5 million people are living. At present, environment pollution is a major threat for the inhabitants of Dhaka city. Sound pollution is new and the latest addition to the arena of environmental pollution in Dhaka city. Uncontrolled noise in the city has created a serious problem for the city dwellers. Sound is being polluted in different ways in our surrounding environment. If we try to find out the major causes of sound pollution in Dhaka city, we will identify rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, increasing number of vehicles resulting in traffic congestion, over population, loud speakers and slogans in political programmes etc as the reasons behind noise pollution. Sound pollution is adversely affecting the environment of this city and causing physical and psychological problems for humans. Thus, sound pollution has become an alarming and serious health hazard for the dwellers of Dhaka city. Exposure to high level of noise may cause severe stress for the auditory organs. It may affect the nervous system of the city dwellers. Most importantly, sound pollution badly affects the sense of hearing of the children. Besides, it causes high blood pressure and headache and also affects sleep.
However, noise intensity is measured in decibel (dB) units. According to World Health Organisation, generally 60 dB sound can cause deafness temporally and 100 dB can make a person deaf completely. The noise on any busy street in Dhaka has been estimated at 60 dB to 80 dB. So explicitly, we are the victims of a serious health hazard. Hospitals and educational institutions are also vulnerable to sound pollution. Dhaka University was once regarded as one of the quietest places in the city. But it is a matter of concern that there is noise pollution even there due to random movements of transports and traffic in the campus areas. Sometimes political meetings by political parties and seminars cause noise pollution there. Huge gathering in the Teacher Student Centre is also responsible for noise pollution on the Dhaka University campus. Loud speakers and music during rag day on the campus are also responsible for sound pollution. Noise pollution is greatly affecting our educational environment on the Dhaka University campus. But it seems that there is none to look into this serious problem.
Some pragmatic measures can be taken to get rid of this sound pollution in Dhaka city. The role of the government is very important towards controlling sound pollution. The government should take initiatives to formulate proper laws in order to reduce noise pollution and these rules and regulations must be enforced properly. Raising public awareness is most important for reducing noise pollution. Besides that traffic control system in Dhaka should be improved. As industries cause noise pollution, authorities should ban establishment of any industries in residential areas. The government should ban the use of hydraulic horns in Dhaka city immediately. The monitoring agencies will have to play an important role to reduce the noise pollution in Dhaka city. The authorities must enforce these rules stringently in hospitals and educational institutions. Random movement of private cars and motorised vehicles should be stopped on the Dhaka university campus. The number of loud speakers during rag days and political meetings should be minimised. Besides, gathering of ordinary people in Teacher Student Centre should be restricted.
Nowadays sound pollution has become an invisible killer for the dwellers of Dhaka city but most of the people are not yet aware of this health hazard. Sometimes, even, our policy makers are not well informed about this problem. Thus, this problem remains out of focus missing due attention. So, it is time to raise awareness about it among the masses in Dhaka city. Hopefully, authorities concerned will take proper steps to reduce sound pollution in Dhaka city and we will get a healthy, livable and safe Dhaka city.
Naim Ebna Rahman
Department of Development Studies
University of Dhaka

Pollution is caused by the introduction of any unwanted element into an environment, which causes instability, disorder and harm to the ecosystem. Sound pollution, also known as noise pollution, refers to undesirable levels of noise caused by human activities. Urbanisation, movement of transports and setting up of industries in wrong places are disrupting the standard of living in Dhaka city. Sound/noise pollution is not a problem only for developed countries. It is a problem for developing countries like Bangladesh as well. In Bangladesh, sound/noise pollution is one of the most talked about subjects of the day. At present, noise level in Dhaka city is estimated to be ranging between 60 dB and 100 dB. If the current situation continues then by the year 2017, 50 per cent people of Dhaka city will lose the hearing power of 30 dB sound. Noise from vehicles is creating disturbances for people. And noise from vehicles has been increasing very fast over the last few decades. Noise from transports is a major problem in Dhaka city today. Noise pollution is also being caused by construction of buildings, industries, microphones and playing music at a high volume. Industrial noise has become a big source of sound pollution in our country now.

What is noise pollution?
Noise/ sound pollution is a phenomenon which can be described as harmful as it harms not only the natural environment around us but also the living creatures.

Why noise pollution is harmful for our health?
Due to noise pollution millions of people are exposed to a number of health risks In Bangladesh. The World Health Organisation classified the adverse health effects of noise pollution into seven categories:
Hearing impairment
Interference with spoken communication
Sleep disturbances
Cardiovascular disturbances
Disturbances in mental health
Impaired task performance
Negative social behaviour and annoyance reactions

Young Ears
Children are most vulnerable to noise pollution, which may result in even loss of hearing. Noise is measured in decibels, which show the intensity of the sound waves on a logarithmic scale. For example, 10 decibels is 10 times greater than 0 decibels and 20 decibels is 100 times greater. Damage to the sense of hearing occurs at noise levels higher than 80 decibels, which is the level of heavy road traffic. Sound waves enter the ear and vibrations stimulate tiny hairs in fluid-filled ear canals, which transmit signals to the brain. Excessive noise destroys these delicate hairs. By the time hearing loss is noticeable, 30 to 40 percent of the hairs may have been destroyed.

Heart disease
Prolonged exposure to noise pollution increases the risk of heart disease. Constant background noise levels as loud as a garbage disposal unit, traffic noise from any major roads and other noises higher than 60 decibels can cause cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, faster pulse rates, elevated cholesterol level, irregular heart beat and heart attacks. People living with noise pollution are more likely to take cardiovascular medication. A study carried out by L Barregard of the University of Gothenburg and other scientists in 2009 found that men who lived near a major highway and busy train lines for more than ten years were three times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than men who hadn’t been exposed to noise pollution.

Restless nights
Sleep disturbance due to noise pollution affects people’s health and mood. Poor sleep is bad for the health of heart, and causes tiredness, depression and poor performance at many tasks. When indoor noise levels are reduced, rapid eye movement sleep and deeper slow wave sleep can increase. High levels of noise pollution increase the number of night awakenings and changes between sleep stages. Although some people believe that effects of noise pollution at night decrease as people become used to the noise, this isn’t the case when it comes to cardiovascular effects and increased body movements during sleep.
Noise in mind
Noise pollution causes a range of psychological damages. In people vulnerable to mental illnesses, noise pollution can increase the development and symptoms of these disorders. It can also contribute to nervousness, anxiety and neurosis, and emotional instability, moodiness and argumentativeness, causing social conflicts. Through interfering with spoken communication, noise pollution causes irritation, disturbed interpersonal relationships, misunderstanding, uncertainty, poor concentration, decreased working capacity and reduced self-confidence. Studies on levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people exposed to noise pollution show raised levels compared to the general population.

How to prevent noise pollution
There is a variety of effective strategies for minimising noise levels, such as, use of noise barriers, improving tire designs, limiting the number of heavy vehicles, use of silencers in the vehicles, designing quieter jet engines, altering flight paths for aircrafts, improving the technology for electric locomotives to reduce rail traffic noise, redesigning of industrial equipment, using acoustic screens and barriers for industrial noise etc.
One of the best ways of reducing noise pollution is making a green belt around the residential areas and the airport and on the sides of the road along which vehicles and trains run.
Besides all the above measures, following steps can also be taken to prevent noise pollution.
Control of noise pollution at the source
Noise-producing industries, railway stations, aerodrome, etc. should be located far away from the residential areas.
We should play various music systems such as stereos, television, etc at low volume.
We should not use loud speakers at night. Even during day time they should be used at low volumes.
Various machines should be well-maintained so that they can produce less sound.
It is observed that many people honk the horns of their vehicles unnecessarily, or remove silencers of the exhaust pipes of vehicles. Such practices should be avoided.
Laws should be framed so that those producing unnecessary noise are punished.
Control of noise pollution by obstructing the path of noise
By constructing soundproof buildings, the menace of sound pollution can be minimised.
Plants also help in controlling noise pollution because they absorb high frequency sound waves. Thus, planting trees along roads help in controlling noise pollution.

Lastly, it can be mentioned that two very simple measures can help a lot in abating noise pollution.
Cities should be developed in a planned way. Industrial and transport areas can be separated into zones, residential areas should be developed at least 20 meters away from the main streets and the space should be thickly planted.
Heavy vehicles should not be allowed to use narrow streets and the use of horns and pressure horns needs to be prohibited.
So for our betterment, our family, friends and relatives, and all of those around us, we should at least try not to be a part of those that cause noise pollution. The above methods will certainly help us in reducing noise pollution. It is, therefore, very important to take these steps immediately to get rid of noise pollution.
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