Noise pollution serious health issue for Dhaka city residents

In this photo taken on 22 March 2019, Mominur Rahman Royal holds a banner with a Bengali slogan -- Horn hudai, Bajay Bhudai that translates to only the idiot honks horn unnecessarily -- on a busy street in Dhaka. Photo: AFP
In this photo taken on 22 March 2019, Mominur Rahman Royal holds a banner with a Bengali slogan -- Horn hudai, Bajay Bhudai that translates to only the idiot honks horn unnecessarily -- on a busy street in Dhaka. Photo: AFP

Excessive noise had been an irritant to the people of the capital city Dhaka, but now it has taken on even more serious proportions. The noise from the roads enters homes, hospitals, schools, offices and is a constant and serious nuisance for the residents of the city.

In a recent study, it was said that noise pollution has become a public health issue. There is evidence of this noise pollution having a harmful impact on the city’s traffic police.

The study, ‘Dhaka residents in the grips of acute noise pollution’, was jointly prepared by Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon and Stamford University. The findings of the study were presented at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Friday. The study was headed by director of Stamford University’s Centre for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS), Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumdar.

The research team carried out the noise pollution survey on 14-22 December 2019 in 70 areas of Dhaka city. When any noise crosses a certain level and causes harm to the hearing of humans or animals, that is defined as noise pollution.

The study indicated that there was acute noise pollution in almost every locality of the capital. Alarmingly, the level of noise was excessively high in areas where it should be the least, such as around hospitals, educational institutions and residential areas.

According to the noise pollution control rules, the ideal noise level for quiet zones is 50 decibels, in residential zones 55 decibels, and in mixed zones 60 decibels.

According to the keynote presentation, the highest noise pollution in the city was from Paltan to High Court. The level of noise is much higher than acceptable in the quiet zones. There is more traffic in the areas with hospitals, residences and educational institutions than in the commercial areas. This noise pollution is causing physical, mental and financial harm to the people.

Director (monitoring and enforcement) of the environment department, Rubina Ferdous, told Prothom Alo, “We are carrying out drives against noise pollution every day. This will be stepped up in the coming days.”

The survey team carried out the study in areas identified as quiet zones. It was seen there was excessive noise at College Gate in the Shishu Hospital areas, at the Kalyanpur Girls’ School area, in front of Mugdapara General Hospital, Uttara Shahjalal Avenue and in front of the secretariat.

The next worst noise pollution was around the Heart Foundation and the paediatric Shishu Institute in Mirpur, BIRDEM hospital and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Shahbagh, Dhanmondi Government Boys’ School, Jagannath University, the secretariat area and the icddr,b area of Mohakhali. Large numbers of children, women and elderly persons come to these areas for medical treatment and education purposes. They are harmed the most by noise pollution.

The study pointed out that public transport commuters and pedestrians are the most affected by this pollution. Next most affected are the roadside shopkeepers and members of the law enforcement.

A separate study was conducted on traffic police in this regard. The study revealed that around 12 per cent of the traffic police’s hearing was impaired due to noise pollution. This caused 15.5 per cent of them to have difficulty in hearing over the mobile phone and 19 per cent had to turn up their TV volumes high at home to hear the programmes properly. And 34 per cent had to speak to each other louder than normal to hear and be heard. After their day’s duty is over, 8.2 per cent of these police personnel feel dizzy and suffer from other physical ailments.

Addressing the event where the results of the survey were made public, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon general secretary Mohammed Abdul Matin said that high decibels of noise can even cause heart attacks. Laws are not enough to prevent noise pollution. Awareness is required. Many government officials have three horns in their cars, even hydraulic horns.

When such high officials do not bother about the laws, how can one expect truck, bus and other drivers to do so, he asked. Initiative to prevent noise pollution, he said, adding that actions must be taken from the top level of society at first.