Noise pollution is an invisible danger. The most common health problem it causes is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Exposure to loud noise can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, and stress. These health problems can affect all age groups, especially children.
Atmospheric pollution is not the only type of contamination that is harming living beings on the planet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is one of the most dangerous environmental threats to health. Environment Agency (EEA) says, noise is responsible for 16,600 premature deaths and more than 72,000 hospitalisations every year in Europe alone.
Not only does it hurt humans, it is bad for animals, too. According to the National Park Service (NPS) in the United States, noise pollution has an enormous environmental impact and does serious damage to wildlife. Experts say noise pollution can interfere with breeding cycles and rearing and is even hastening the extinction of some species.
Not all sound is considered noise pollution. The (WHO) defines noise above 65 decibels (dB) as noise pollution. To be precise, noise becomes harmful when it exceeds 75 decibels (dB) and is painful above 120 dB. As a consequence, it is recommended that noise levels be kept below 65 dB during the day and indicates that restful sleep is impossible with night-time ambient noise levels in excess of 30 dB.
Dhaka city is suffering from unprecedented noise pollution which is taking place at the extreme level alongside air pollution. Noise pollution is resulting in physical and psychological problems for the city dwellers, and thus has become an alarming health hazard.
Uncontrolled noise in Dhaka city is peaking up gradually with increasing number of new vehicles hitting the city streets daily. As a result, the degree and intensity of such pollution cause impairment of hearing of city dwellers very frequently. The level of noise pollution is also affecting the social-environment of the city.
In fact, the noise pollution in the city has gone beyond control due to lax enforcement of the Noise Pollution Control Rules 2006 by the authorities concerned and lack of awareness among the people about the rules.
As per law, the mobile courts of the traffic police can impose a fine of Tk 100 each as per the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983 against the vehicles for violating various traffic rules related offences.
The drivers of vehicles unnecessarily use their hydraulic horns to create blaring noise. People of the city, predominantly students, can't concentrate on their studies and are unable to sleep due to unbearable sound of horns.
However, there is a provision of sentencing a person to a minimum one month's jail term and Tk 5,000 fine or both and a maximum of six moths' jail term and Tk 10,000 fine or both for causing noise pollution and violating noise pollution control rules. But such rules are hardly followed.
On its part, the traffic police claim that they are authorised only to enforce the Article 139 of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1983 where there is a provision to fine Tk 100 for using hydraulic horn. This is their mother Act and they cannot go beyond such law. They say the drive they conduct against the vehicles permits them only to enforce the motor vehicle act and not the noise pollution control rules.
Around 25 per cent of the surveyed people of the city suffer from lung function abnormalities due to higher extent of air pollution. Such lung function abnormalities cause different types of airborne diseases, like - bronchiolitis, pneumonia, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These were revealed in a study on the effects of air pollution on public health conducted by a private university.
In the circumstances, the government-conducted awareness campaign onthe rules and health related issues caused by noise pollution should be intensified. At the same time, the government should become more active in enforcement of the law.
Taking into account the physical and mental health of the urban people, predominantly of the children, it is imperative for the decision-makers, leaders, planners and engineers to keep the noise level of the city within acceptable limits.