Noise is typically understood as unwanted or excessive sound that has a serious negative impact on people, wildlife, and the environment. An average individual can hear sounds between 0 decibels (dB) and 140 dB. The ideal sound threshold for cities is 45 dB, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Modern society's rapid growth in urbanization, transportation, and industrialization has made noise pollution a major threat to the world. Therefore, “World Hearing Day” is observed on March 3rd with the goal of increasing public understanding of how to prevent hearing loss and deafness, and also minimizing the noise pollution, which was known as International Ear Care Day before 2016. The theme for the day this year is "Ear and hearing care for all! Let’s make it a reality".
Generally, noise pollution comes from various sources. There are numerous physiological and psychological effects that are caused by noise pollution. These effects can lead to a loss of hearing, stress, and high blood pressure, loss of sleep, distraction, irritation, anxiety, depression, digestive disorder, interference in communication, lowers productivity, and a general reduction in the quantity of life and opportunities. Also, any sudden noise may result in palpitations, high blood pressure, and even heart issues. Noise pollution also has significant economic and social costs. According to the findings for several research that were reviewed by the World Health Organization, it was discovered that children who were constantly subjected to distracting noise had worse levels of reading ability, memory, and academic achievement (WHO). It also affects workplace productivity and increase healthcare costs. Besides, Michel Andre, a bioacoustics researcher in Spain found the effects of noise from ships and human activities in the ocean is harmful to whales and dolphins that depend on echolocation to survive, which is threaten to our biodiversity.
Noise pollution is a growing concern in many urban areas around the world. In this regard Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) has conducted many studies on noise pollution. Among them a latest study shows that noise pollution levels in front of 17 hospitals were found to be lowest 69.7 decibels and highest to be 89.9 decibels. A comparative analysis of the noise level in front of hospitals located in Dhanmondi residential area with the standard daytime limit (55 decibels) prescribed for residential areas as per the Noise Pollution (Control) Rules 2006 shows that the standard limit (55 decibels) has been exceeded at 17 places, where The ideal excess level is 26.7% (69.7 decibels) in front of Bangladesh Medical College which is the lowest among 17 places and 63% (89.9 decibels) in front of Central Hospital which is the highest among 17 places. Out of which 9 places have noise levels above 80 decibels, which the US EPA has identified as extremely hazardous noise levels. It is also observed in the study that most of the hospitals in Dhanmondi area are located next to the busiest traffic connections. In another study, data was collected from 16 metro rail stations to monitor noise levels. The average observed equivalent continuous sound level (Leq) value of noise was 80 decibels which is 1.33 times higher than the daytime limit set by the Department of Environment (60 decibels in mixed areas). Analyzing the data also shows that the highest Leq was recorded at Karwan Bazar station (101.69), and the lowest Leq was recorded at Uttara Depot (60.31); whereas between the two separate city corporation areas the highest and lowest noise was found in North City Corporation.
To address this issue, the government of Bangladesh has taken several measures to reduce noise pollution levels. For instance, the country has introduced laws and regulations that limit the noise levels of vehicles and equipment, and the use of loudspeakers and firecrackers is banned in some areas during certain days. In our country, the areas are divided into different zones but are not followed correctly. In many cases, it can be seen that the factory has been set up in the silent zone, where there is various heavy machinery. The factory has to be relocated to a remote location. Factory boundaries should be surrounded by high walls. Also, very noisy machine canopy should be used and equipment should be properly maintained. The unfitted automobiles need to be banned from roads. Also, if the Department of Environment helps by providing Dhaka Metropolitan Police with magistrates, it would be easier for them to conduct drives against sound polluters. Secondly, they also do not have equipment for measuring sounds. So, they need to be equipped with tools. Thirdly, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority can provide training before license issued on proper use of horn on the road. Lastly, and most important is awareness among individual urban and rural people.
Noise pollution is unavoidable and an issue on a global scale; yet it is something that may be mitigated to a certain extent with effective management. A portion of the issue would have been resolved in addition to the noise pollution rules if the traffic laws had also been adequately implemented. However, the implementation and enforcement of noise pollution regulations in Bangladesh remain a challenge due to the lack of resources and awareness among the public. It is, therefore, crucial to increase public awareness about the impact of noise pollution on health and wellbeing and to promote sustainable practices that reduce noise levels in the country.
The writer is the Dean at the Faculty of
Environmental Science, Stamford