That Dhaka city dwellers are gripped by a severe degree of noise pollution did not need any study to tell them. However, a recent joint study by Stamford University (SU) and the Bangladesh Parisbesh Anodolon (BAPA) have brought out an interesting finding that noise pollution in the Bangladesh Secretariat area has worsened in the aftermath of the recent no-horn order around the country's administrative nerve-centre. The no-horn-zone now enjoys the unwholesome 70 decibels (dB) for 96 per cent of the time compared to 88 per cent of the time before the order's promulgation. Indeed large swathes of the capital city, in fact the whole city, suffer from, or endure, high level of dB throughout most of the day. However, airplane landing and take-off have not been curtailed at night in Dhaka and other international airports in the country, a fact that becomes a greater source of noise pollution when everything else seems to have stopped creating otherwise a serene calm needed for sleep.
Not that Dhaka, or its Secretariat, is the only place in the country or the world to experience excessive dB over long periods of time. However, most countries have taken to strict code of conduct in this matter. Laws have been enacted and people's consciousness has been appealed to and raised. Noise barriers have come to be used. Planning of roads has been meticulous and calculative. Residential zones have been created in such a way that vehicular traffic has least relevance during hours that need calmness. In neighbouring India, the courts have banned loud speakers after ten at night. In Sweden input value of 80 dB has been put at eight hours. All the European countries and the United States and Japan have mechanisms in place, although not all have been able to grapple with the problem totally. Our courts are known for their pro-environment stance on many issues. If the condition of children and patients are considered, something more serious is needed to save them not only from air pollution, but also the scourge of dB. The World Health Organisation's limit of dB is 50 for residential areas. Studies should be taken up for Dhaka and the other big and busy cities to calculate as to how far the situation has gone.
Law courts, educational institutions, libraries and above all hospitals need to be saved from noise created by loud music, transportation, rail, electric generators and crowds of people cowering at market places. The SU-BAPA study has mentioned dB's contribution to heart diseases, with cardiovascular effects in humans. Children are the most at risk to suffer. It creates a different personality in them if exposed to high levels of dB for most of the day from early life. It works as a silent marauder. The said study has interviewed traffic police on duty and found out that their hearing power has diminished. Dhaka's pathetic bus service is another villain of the piece. If many countries have roads where not a single horn is blown without an emergency, why it should not be possible in this country also. For this, 'awareness among people' is very much the first thing on the order. Every driver, every passenger, every passer-by must be alert to the malady of noise.
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