Sound, a very crucial feature of our lives, has been the means of communication and entertainment for mankind since the beginning of our existence. We keep hearing sounds of all kinds from numerous sources all the time. But did we ever stop to think how noise pollution takes place and to what extent the adverse effects of noise pollution are affecting the lives of people living in Dhaka, in terms of both mental and physical health? Probably not, but let me warn you, it is extremely alarming.
Dhaka never pauses, and neither does the noise. Period. There seems to be a lack of awareness in the case of noise pollution – it is a different form of environmental pollution which cannot be observed straight away like air and water pollution, but unfortunately its effects are evident directly on the receiver (people or animals). 1 out of 10 people in this country suffer from certain degrees of deafness, according to a report published in 2004, which was 10% of the nation’s population at that time. It only increased with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and increasing human activities since then. But here’s the real issue – deafness or hearing impairment is not the sole problem to deal with, noise pollution is actually way beyond this.
Street vendors and hawkers in Dhaka occupy over 60% of the 163km footpaths in the city and they never stop screaming for customers. Average traffic speed in Dhaka has reduced from 21km per hour to 7km per hour in the last 10 years, thanks to the auto mobile revolution. This Increasing traffic congestion has given rise to repeated hooting of horns by impatient drivers.
Moreover, we need only the slightest of an excuse for using loud speakers. The reason may be a religious function, birth, death, marriage, elections or just commercial advertising. Public system, therefore, contributes in its own way towards noise pollution. Even if we get inside closed doors, there’s no escaping it. Do you have a constantly running TV in your home? Many would say yes to that. Thus, the household is a source of countless indoor noises. Domestic gadgets like the mixer-grinders, pressure cookers, air- conditioners, exhaust fans, vacuum cleaners, sewing and washing machines are a few notable ones. Noise pollution directly affects our brain, heart, eyes and stomach. The definite aftermath is headache caused by dilating of blood vessels in the brain, which also leads to anxiety, increased rate of heart-beat and cholesterol level.
1 out of 10 people in this country suffer from certain degrees of deafness, according to a report published in 2004
With regular exposure to loud noise, the ability to read, learn and understand decreases significantly over time. Problem solving capabilities and the ability to recall and analyse may also decline due to this. Noise increases the margin of error, besides hampering one's productivity and also stimulates violent behaviour. Research has proved that children studying in a noisy environment tend to show relatively low cognitive function than the ones studying in a more calm environment.
Often we hear extremely intense and loud noises, like blasting of bombs or firecrackers, which do harm us, but this high intensity noise lasts for a shorter span of time in comparison to the other types of noise which is not severely intense but continual and of high frequency, for example, hydraulic horns or continuous drilling. The latter affects us more in the long run as we are inevitably exposed to it year after year.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police has issued codes governing the use of loudspeakers during public meetings and banned hydraulic horns of all kinds. But enforcement of these rules is another matter all together. The Department of Environment is planning to distribute sophisticated equipment to the police to monitor the noise level of vehicles. Besides, a program has been undertaken to teach school children about the harmful effects of noise pollution. Knowingly or unknowingly, we create a lot of noise and unnecessary chaos in a thousand ways. A little caution can lead to greater good if we have the right intentions. The change should start from within. As Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
The writer is a young Ad Film maker and a traveller by heart who loves to sketch and write at times.