With the increasing number of vehicles on the capital’s roads in recent years, the honking of cars has reached an unbearable limit and has become a major source of noise pollution in Dhaka.
Apart from hearing loss, noise pollution can cause hypertension, high-stress levels, and other health hazards, according to health experts.Noise from brick grinding machines in construction sites, loudspeakers, noise from metal workshops and generators, loud music from residences during wedding ceremonies and social gatherings are among the main sources of noise pollution in the city.
Car honking starts very early in the morning and continues unabated until midnight in many parts of the capital.
Use of loudspeakers in social programmes, political assembly, concert and marketing campaigns is another source of noise pollution.
According to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2006, acceptable sound levels are 55 decibels for daytime – 6:00 am to 9:00 pm –and 45 decibels for night – 9:00pm to 6:00am – in residential areas; 50 decibels for daytime and 40 decibels for night in quiet places; 60 decibels for daytime and 50 decibels for night in mixed areas; 70 decibels for daytime and 60 decibels for night in commercial areas; and 75 decibels for daytime and 70 decibels for night in industrial areas.
The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2006, prohibits honking of horns within a 100-metre radius of hospitals, educational institutions and offices. The rules also make mandatory taking prior permission for using loudspeakers. But no one follows the rules.
Most people are not aware of the rules regarding this issue and many do not know where to lodge complaints to end this problem.According to a 2017 study by the Department of Environment (DoE), sound levels at all the divisional headquarters are far beyond the acceptable limit for human ears.
The survey was conducted at 70 points of Dhaka city and recorded sound level reached up to 120-130 dB (decibels) at many points.
According to the report, the noise level was above 120dB during the daytime at Gabtoli, Arambagh intersection, Gulshan-2 intersection, and Gulistan intersection, Mirpur 10 intersection, Banglamotor, New Market, Mascot Plaza of Uttara, Jagannath University and other areas.
Among the 70 points, the lowest sound level was recorded 99.6dB during the daytime and 43.7dB at night at Road-18 of Uttara-14.
The highest noise level recorded at Farmgate was 130.2dB during the daytime and the lowest 65.7dB at night.
It also found that 500-1,000 vehicles in Dhaka sound the horn at the same time even when they are stuck in traffic.
This study revealed that around 11.7 per cent of the population of the country had lost their hearing due to noise pollution.
The survey also found that the people are unaware of the 2006 sound pollution control law—and very few have seen the law implemented.
The World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that any sound above 60 decibels can temporarily make a person deaf and prolonged exposure to sound above 100 decibels can cause hearing impairments.
Dr Kanu Lal Saha, associate professor of ENT and Head Neck Surgery department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told the daily sun: deafness and hearing problems occur due to various reasons including exposure to loud noise for a prolonged period.
Listening to music on headphones at a high volume, excessive use of loudspeakers and audio devices or mp3 player, hydraulic horns and loud noise generated by factories also are posing a risk to our hearing ability, he said.
He also suggested using new technologies with cautions. “Children and adolescents should be cautious about what noise they are being exposed to. The habit of listening to music at high-volume on headphones is getting worse among young adults.”
Dr Kanu Lal Saha advised proper medical tests if any hearing problem arises. “Hearing loss can be prevented through proper treatment.”