Noise and soil pollution is nothing new for Bangladeshis Jayanta
• Noise levels in divisional cities exceed 130 decibels, 2.6 times more than the normal.
• Violating permitted noise level is a punishable by law. First offence carries a one-month jail or a fine of Tk 5,000 or both.
• Hospitals, educational institutions, courts and surrounding 100 meter perimeter declared as silent zone.
• DoE has undertaken a Tk 479 million project to control noise pollution will continue for three years
Although air, water, noise and soil pollution is nothing new for Bangladeshis, experts believe the crisis has further deepened. According to them, noise pollution in the capital Dhaka and other cities has reached unbearable levels.
According to a recent government survey by the Department of Environment, more than 12% of the country's population has suffered deafness due to excessive noise. Added to this are various health problems including high blood pressure, heart diseases, lung complications, brain disorders, memory loss and stress.
Children and the elderly are suffering the most, said Dr. A.K.M. Rafique Ahammed, the director general of the Department of Environment. He urged to take integrated initiatives besides raising civic awareness in this regard.
Noise pollution is referred as ‘silent killer’ by some experts. And especially in the capital Dhaka, which is the second worst city in terms of the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the world, sources of noise pollutions are literally everywhere, threatening public health. Visibly there aren’t any established guidelines of permitted degree of noise levels. Whether its noise from transports, construction works or from industries’ machinery or random use of speakers, very few bother to consciously stay below a tolerable level of sound that is not harmful to us.
According to the World Health Organization, the normal noise level for residential area is 50 (dB) decibels (dB). The Department of Environment survey also found that noise levels in the country's divisional cities exceeded 130 decibels, which is 2.6 times more than the normal level.
In the capital- Paltan, Shahbagh, Farmgate, Motijheel, Rampura, Mirpur and some other areas come up first in terms of highest noise pollution. The general public has blamed hundreds of car horns on vehicle signals, building construction, mills, and miking, especially on signals, as the main causes of noise pollution.
The simultaneous sounding of the horns of several hundred vehicles at traffic intersections is identified as the prime cause of noise pollution.
When it comes to building constructions in Dhaka, it is often seen that piling work, brick breaking machines, cement mixers are being used randomly day and night. However, according to the noise pollution control rules under the Environmental Protection Act, these construction machines cannot be operated from 7 pm to 7 am. Brick or stone breaking machines may not be used for construction work within 500 meters from the last boundary of a residential area. But there is no such thing as the last frontier of residential area in Dhaka city.
The experience, at least in the big cities, is that construction goes on at midnight and even throughout the night. Whether one's sleep is disturbed, children's studies are impacted, or the sick and the elderly suffer, nothing can stop the untimely construction work.
Loudspeakers can also be used at picnic sites as designated by the authorities. It’s allowed from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon. Besides, loudspeakers cannot be played on the way to such leisure trip. Most importantly picnics should be organized at least one kilometer away from the residential area.
In short, from construction works to the use of drill machines and loudspeakers are regularly breaking rules.
Noise pollution control measures in Bangladesh clearly states the threshold of noise which is a punishable offense in residential areas, at any time of the day.
According to the rules, the noise level in residential areas from 9 pm to 6 am cannot exceed 45 decibels and 55 decibels at other times of the day. In commercial areas it is 60 and 70 decibels respectively.
Hospitals, educational institutions, offices, courts and a perimeter of 100 meters from such facilities have been declared as silent zone. Permitted noise levels in such places is 40 decibels at night and 50 decibels during the day.
The provisions of punishment say, if the law is broken, the officials in charge will be able to seize the noise source equipment. Failure to comply with the provisions of the rules will be treated as a crime. If convicted of noise pollution, the first offense carries a one-month jail term or a fine of Tk 5,000 or both.
If someone repeats the same crime for the second time, six months imprisonment or a fine of Tk 10,000 or both is in the provision.
If anyone feels that he or she is a victim of noise pollution, he can seek redress through calling national emergency service on writing to the authority. There are three types of environmental courts in Bangladesh, one of which is the mobile court.
Although the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2006 were enacted to prevent noise pollution, they are only on paper. According to the rules, blowing horns, miking in front of hospitals, educational institutions, places of worship and residential areas as well as making loud noises in the name of social and religious ceremonies are punishable by law. However, there is little application of that law. This is being blamed as the main reason behind exceeding the level of noise pollution.
Acknowledging this reality, Dr Ahammed, also mentioned that various steps have been taken to prevent it.
"Noise pollution is increasing. As the population grows in the cities, work in development projects is increasing, so is the number of vehicles. But the government is taking steps. We are taking steps to transform our cities peaceful and livable”, he said.
He said they have taken up the project to control noise pollution involving the mass people. Through this project, training will be imparted to the people from all walks of life aiming to create awareness about sound pollution.
Meanwhile, The government will conduct a total of 2,000 mobile courts across the country against the violators of existing laws with a view to combating noise pollution.
Noise Pollution (Control) Rules, 2006 will be amended and the rules will be made time-befitting. Besides, the government will take different steps to fight sound pollution in the country.
To this effect, Department of Environment (DoE) has undertaken a Tk 479 million project. The first phase of the project titled: 'Integrated and Participatory Project on Noise Pollution Control' will continue for three years from 2020 to 2022, according to officials.
Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin inaugurated the first workshop of the project organised by Department of Environment on Thursday (January 21).
At the same time, the Department of Environment says it is not possible for the government alone to handle the situation. Mass awareness is also essential to protect the environment.
Mahmudunnabi Chanchal, General Secretary of Works for Better World, a voluntary organization who are working to create awareness about this, thinks the noise pollution situation is spiraling out of control due to lack of planning.
“The level of noise pollution in our country has exceeded alarming level. Especially the situation in Dhaka is completely unbearable. The concern is that while there are discussions of other environmental pollution from various quarters, there are no discussions on noise pollution,” he said.
“However, it is vital that awareness is created among the general public about noise pollution. Otherwise, we are going to get a handicapped generation in a very short time,” he warned.