Noise pollution has turned alarming in the capital as unnecessary honking by motorists continues unabated, posing serious health hazards to city dwellers.
Apart from adding woes to the patients in hospitals, the deafening noise caused by honking badly affects the students on their way to educational institutions.
More and more city dwellers are developing blood pressure and hypertension, said associate professor Dr Abul Hasan Muhammad Bashar, a cardiovascular disease expert and also former visiting professor of Hamamatshu University of Medicine, Japan.
Noise pollution in Dhaka city has already exceeded acceptable limits two decades back.
Though the Department of Environment recommended tolerable limits of noise exposure beyond which people will be harmed, drivers are continuously crossing those limits at several points in the city.
Noise level was measured at 37 locations in the city, including Motijheel, Farmgate, Gulshan, Gulistan and Mirpur.It is observed that the average level of noise at roadside exceeds the allowable limit by forty percent at all the locations and at sensitive places like hospitals, schools, universities and parks.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the safe limit of sound is 45 decibels. Sound over 65 decibels creates heart diseases and over 90 decibels of sound leads to ulcer, hearing problems and changes of nerve system and that of over 120 decibels creates pain in the ears and destroys hearing ability gradually.
According to a study of BUET on noise pollution, 45 decibels of sound was around the city in 1985 which was tolerable, but in 1990 it rose to 55, in 2000 it was 75 and in 2013 it rose to 110 decibels to some of the areas. On average, 105 decibels of sound is created in Dhaka city everyday which is alarming and a permanent health hazard to the city dwellers.
The study also says high-pitched sound of hydraulic horns of buses, trucks, private cars and even motorcycles, cassette players in the market and buses, loud speakers and roadside mills and factories severely affect passengers and passers-by.
It says generator, old three-wheeler, brick-breaking machine, siren of ambulance and high sound of welding machine are also causing noise pollution.
Renowned ENT specialist Prof Pran Gopal Dutta, also former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said, “Sound pollution creates primary and secondary health problems. High-pitched sound primarily creates acoustic trauma, which leads to the damage to the inner ear nerve and may cause a loss of hearing.”
“Secondly, continuous noise pollution poses breathing complications, headache, nausea, disappointment and other physical difficulties,” he added.
Experts say loud sound induces release of adrenal hormone that leads to impatience and mental excitement. As a result, various mental disorders like irritation, anxiety, frustration and depression develop. Even people may suffer from indigestion and peptic ulcer.
Noise pollution also affects heart, blood circulation, food canal and stomach besides causing some mental complications, according to psychiatrists and cardiologists.
People of different ages also suffer from various diseases because of this pollution in Dhaka city. Sometimes intolerable sound pollution may cause death to ischemic heart patients.
Director General of the Department of Environment Raisul Alam Mondal said, “Noise pollution around Dhaka city is increasing day by day due to growing number of public private vehicles.”
“We fine motor vehicles for using banned hydraulic horns and remove the horns. We also refuse renewal of environmental clearance for the industries which create sound pollution,” he added.
“Our enforcement team often visits different areas and penalises those vehicle owners for violating the noise pollution rule act,” he added.
Laws alone are not enough to restrict noise pollution. It is more important to enforce the law to put an end to the pollution, he said.