Detrimental effects of noise pollution: Why no urgent action yet?

Drivers in Bangladesh are not familiar with the concept of driving without honking. They keep competing with each other by honking frequently on the roads and highways. This has resulted in Dhaka being the city with the most noise pollution in the world according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Citizens of other cities are not free from this curse. While studies on the harmful effects of noise pollution have come up with alarming data, public health experts have also warned of its multifaceted harm. But neither the concerned authorities nor the drivers feel the need to pay any heed to stop noise pollution.

Recently, the research of Bangladesh Institute of Health Sciences revealed the negative effects of high levels of noise pollution which is very concerning. Research shows that 25 per cent of the people who work on road face difficulties in hearing.

Another 7 per cent have hearing loss so bad that they need hearing aids. This study was conducted on professionals working on roads in Dhaka North and South City Corporation, Rajshahi, Comilla and Sylhet City Corporation areas. Their average age is 38 and spend an average of 11 hours on the road six days a week.

While the permissible noise level is 60 decibels, the noise level on the roads in the city corporation area was found to be between 84 and 99 decibels. About 42 per cent of rickshaw pullers and 31 per cent of traffic policemen suffer from hearing issues. Apart from this, hearing problems have reached an alarming level among the drivers of buses, autorickshaws, motorcycles and other vehicles and professionals around the road.

High levels of noise pollution slowly erode human vitality. Not only hearing loss or similar problems, it also has extremely negative effects on physical and mental health. A study by a German researcher has revealed that noise pollution is changing the behaviour of people in Dhaka city. A tendency to lose one's temper or get upset is caused by noise pollution. Policy makers do not consider noise pollution as a public health hazard. In Bangladesh, the regulations give details of the maximum level of noise permitted in particular areas and at particular times. If you do not follow these rules, there is a provision of jail and fine.

The Health Sciences research report makes eight recommendations to address the problem of noise pollution. These include identifying the sources of road noise pollution and taking steps to reduce levels, reducing the working hours of those working on roads and conducting regular hearing tests. We hope these recommendations will be implemented.

Noise pollution is the silent killer. Where in the rest of the world no one uses horns except in special circumstances, in our country honking is considered essential whenever on the road. The horns continue to blow for no reason. Be it the cars of state officials or passenger buses—there is no exception. To get rid of the curse of noise pollution, we need to change our mindset first.

Those who drive themselves should be conscious. And owners should warn drivers about honking. Secondly, the law against noise pollution should be enforced. The reality is that the environment department, city corporation and traffic police can stop noise pollution if they wish. But no one seems to bother about this dire problem. It is time to recognise noise pollution as a serious public health problem at the policy-making level.