Dhaka city is faced with unprecedented noise pollution along with extreme air pollution. Noise pollution is resulting in physical and psychological problems for the city dwellers, and thus has become an alarming health hazard.
Uncontrolled noise in Dhaka city is picking up fast with increasing number of new vehicles hitting the city streets daily. As a result, the degree and intensity of such pollution cause hearing impairment of city dwellers very frequently. The level of noise pollution is also affecting the social-environment of the city.
In fact, noise pollution in the city has gone beyond control due to lax enforcement of the Noise Pollution Control Rules 2006 by the authorities concerned and lack of awareness among the people about the rules.
As per the rules, the mobile courts of the traffic police can impose a fine of Tk 100 as per the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983 on the vehicles for violating various traffic rules related offences.
The drivers of vehicles unnecessarily use their hydraulic horns to create blaring noise. People of the city, predominantly students, can't concentrate on their studies and are unable to sleep due to unbearable sound of horns.
There is a provision of sentencing a person to a minimum one month's jail term and Tk 5,000 fine or both and a maximum of six moths' jail term and Tk 10,000 fine or both for causing noise pollution violating noise pollution control rules. But such rules are hardly followed.
Various studies on noise pollution level in the city found that in reality the sound is three times higher than the level set in the noise pollution control rules. They have set a maximum 130 decibel sound during the off-peak hour between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am while it is maximum 127 decibel in the silent zone after 9:00 pm. The standard has been set for silent zone at 50 decibel during the day-time while it is 40 decibel at night.
According to the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983, any vehicle that generates more than 85 decibel sound after starting the engine will not get clearance certificate while it is totally forbidden to install hydraulic horn in vehicles. But maximum number of buses and trucks has been using hydraulic horns threatening public health.
On its part, the traffic police claim that they are authorised only to enforce the Article 139 of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1983 where there is a provision to fine Tk 100 for using hydraulic horn. This is the Mother Act and they cannot go beyond it. They say the drive they conduct against the vehicles permits them only to enforce the motor vehicle act and not the noise pollution control rules. If there is any joint drive, then the environment department can enforce the noise pollution rules, they claimed.
Taking into account the physical and mental health of the urban people, predominantly of the children, it is imperative for the decision-makers, leaders, planners and engineers to keep the noise level of the city within acceptable limits.
According to the Environment and Forestry Protection Law-1997, there is a designated silent area within 100 metres of any hospital, educational institution and some government-fixed institution. There is prohibition on use of mikes and horns. But, nobody follows the rules.
All said and done, the government needs to conduct awareness campaign on the rules and health hazards caused by noise pollution. Enforcement of the rules for punishing the offenders should essentially form part of maintaining traffic discipline.
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