A recent study has, unsurprisingly, found noise pollution in 70 neighbourhoods of Dhaka to be higher than the permissible level. Many studies prior to this had revealed similar results and a number of organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have been warning about the grave consequences that exposure to such high levels of sound pollution may have on human health. Unfortunately, these warnings appear to have been falling on deaf ears, as the authorities have so far completely failed to reduce Dhaka’s noise level.
The fact that the recent study found sound levels to be higher than the permissible levels in every one of the 70 neighbourhoods they inspected, should turn at least a few heads. What is further shocking is that in the quietest of areas—the Secretariat area—the sound level was at 99.5 decibels (dB), which is double that of the standard noise level of below 50 dB for a silent zone, according to Bangladesh’s noise pollution guidelines. On December 17, the government launched a pilot project to reduce Dhaka’s sound pollution. As part of the project, the government declared the areas surrounding the Secretariat as “silent zone”. Ironically, the data for the study was collected between December 14-22, partly after a silent zone was declared.
If this is the state of things, then the overall situation is indeed extremely grim. According to an earlier report by WHO, exposure to sound above 60 dB can cause temporary deafness, and prolonged exposure to sound above 100 dB can lead to hearing impairment. Moreover, those who are usually worst affected by noise pollution are children, the elderly and expecting mothers. And exposure to noise can even affect the condition of a foetus and lead to premature delivery.
The authorities cannot ignore the seriousness of this crisis anymore. The study gave 11 recommendations, some of which were mentioned before in other studies, and some that the government had already tried to implement in the past, but failed—such as stopping the use of hydraulic horns. However, it is essential that sound pollution in Dhaka be immediately brought down. And so we must once again call on the authorities to get out of its nonchalant attitude and proactively work towards that singular goal.