When fireworks were exploding in the Nabinagar Housing neighborhoods of Mohammadpur in the capital on December 31 night, four-month-old Umayer got terrified by the loud noise and had been trembling all over the night.
“We took him to the National Heart Foundation and Hospital the following morning as he was crying bitterly with fever. He was moved to the ICU where he died of heart failure in the afternoon,” said his father Yousuf Raihan, who runs a shop at Mohammadpur.
Apart from the 31st night, fireworks explode during annual festival ‘Shakrain’ or ‘Paush Shankranti’, which usually takes place on January 14-15 every year, in Old Dhaka.
Although making noise is a punishable offence under the Noise Pollution (Control) Rules 2006, the authorities concerned hardly take any legal action against the noisemakers.
Mohammad Masud Hassan Patwary, director (Monitoring and Enforcement Wing) of the Department of Environment (DoE), told the Daily Sun that they cannot take action against all the noisemakers. “We can’t conduct mobile court after evening as per the directives of the Cabinet Division though the fireworks explode after the sunset. It’s a major setback for us to punish the perpetrators,” he said.
He also said they were facing a serious shortage of manpower in the enforcement wing. “We have only five magistrates for ensuring monitoring across the country. And one of them is now attending a training course. The two magistrates are in Cox’s Bazar while the two others are busy monitoring brick kilns,” he added.
Officer-in-charge of Mohammadpur Police Station Abdul Latif said they did not receive any complaint about the death of the boy after being getting terrified by loud sound. “On that night, fireworks exploded all over Dhaka. In Mohammadpur area, we didn’t arrest anyone in this connection but our team visited many places on information and stopped fireworks,” he said.
The rules also permit noise levels at Silent areas, including hospitals, educational institutions, offices and similar establishments, and 100 metres around them at the lowest 50 decibels in the daytime and 40 decibels at night and in residential areas 55 decibels and 45 decibels respectively.
In industrial areas, the limit is 75 decibels in the daytime and 70 decibels at night.
But city dwellers said the authorities concerned are not enforcing the rules properly and they are becoming victims of noise pollution.
They also said the authorities do not take action against the noisemakers during the 31st night and Shakrain festival.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the maximum noise level that can be tolerated by humans for eight hours without some loss of hearing over time is 85 decibels.
But in Dhaka, the sounds of honking can reach 110 decibels during peak hours, according to a 2017 DoE study.
The study also said private cars, motorcycles, CNG-run three-wheelers, pickup vans, buses, ambulances, brick crushing, tiles, rod and Thai cutter and mixture machines were the major contributors to the noise pollution.
Speaking at a programme marking International Noise Awareness Day on November 4 last, Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Mohammad Shahab Uddin said the noise pollution in Dhaka city reached three times higher than the tolerable level, and the invisible danger put around 50 lakh people at health risk.
He had also said people often become the source of indoor and outdoor noise pollution without being aware of it. “The Department of Environment, police, city corporations and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority will work together to stop the noise pollution.”
According to official data, the DoE conducted 71 mobile court drives across the country from January 2020 to December 31, 2021 when they penalised the noisemakers and filed 491 cases.
During the drives, Tk 4.77 lakh were realised in fine and 29 vehicle horns were seized.
Contacted, Supreme Court lawyer Manzill Murshid said, “There’s almost no enforcement of the rules. If the rules are enforced, incidents like the tragic death of the boy might have come down. Now people can’t sleep at night, can’t walk on the streets and students can’t attend the classes for the noise pollution.”
“We need proper enforcement of the rules first. We also need to revise the rules to increase the punishment for the perpetrators,” he opined.