Nepal | August 09, 2020

Noise pollution: Are you aware of it?

Dr Ravi Sharma Aryal
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The word ‘noise’ is derived from the Latin word ‘nausea’ meaning seasickness. Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants today. Noise is normally produced by fluctuations in air pressure, and includes sound and vibration. Road traffic, airplanes, vehicles, construction equipment, manufacturing processes, lawn mowers, loud speakers, saw mills are among the audible litter that are routinely broadcast into the air.

Noise pollution can broadly be divided into three types —

• Transportation noise, may include road, rail, air and shipping activities

• Industrial noise, may include factories, businesses, extractive industries, construction, agricultural and other industries

• Neighbourhood noise, may include use of noisy articles, vehicles, audio amplified and vessels, barking of dogs and loud music

The World Health Organisation says noise can affect the human health and well being in a number of ways including causing annoyance, reaction, sleep disturbance, hypertension, interference with communication, performance, social behaviour and hearing loss.

Generally, the noise level should not exceed beyond 45-55 db in a house, while noise level outside houses should not exceed beyond 75-85 db. Doctors recommend that in any industry the level of noise should not exceed 90 db, while over 100db of noise level is harmful for human beings.

In Nepal there are many known devices for noise pollution.

Some of the noticed noise polluters are pressure horns on vehicles, vehicular noises, saw mills or furniture factories in residential areas, sugarcane mills, textile or metal industries, aircraft, religious ceremonies, mosques or temples using loud speakers, quarries, explosions, construction equipment, and neighbourhood and domestic noises.

The government has not given serious priority to control such activities even under the Environment Protection Act, 1997. No single authority has the responsibility or capacity to minimise any form of noise pollution under the prevailing law.

One of the major noise polluters in Kathmandu is the saw mills that have been established as furniture factories in residential areas. Such factories should not have been allowed to register within the Ring Road under the policy of the Department of Cottage Industries, but they are to be found everywhere in the Valley. When asked about this, the authority concerned answered that without a legal framework, they were also handicapped to take any legal action against such factories. In some areas, even municipalities are unknowingly regularising such sawmills while collecting local taxes.

The government should introduce a certain standard of noise level for road traffic noise, aircraft traffic noise, rail traffic noise, industrial noise, neighbourhood noise, saw mill noise with restriction on location of establishment. Other stakeholders like the Traffic Police, Vehicle Inspector and citizens also need to be aware of the results of noise pollution. Some good initiation has been shown by declaring congested road ‘One Way’ by the Traffic Police to control noise and air pollution. Damaged road, airport ground and railway tracks, need to be repaired timely to reduce vehicular noise pollution.

There are few laws that provide provisions on noise pollution in Nepal. The Civil Aviation Act, 1958 provides a provision to control airplane noise, the Explosives Act, 1961 is to regulate noise from the use of explosives to some extent. But the major noise pollution in the city is from vehicular traffic and textile/metal cutting industries, which have not been covered by any legal framework in Nepal. Provisions controlling noise from other range of accessories like power tools, air conditioners, amplified music should also be taken care in this context.

In some countries even barking dogs and noise from airports have been identified as a considerable problem and controlling such no-ise is the responsibility of the local government. Thus, some airports in developed countries are now paying for noise proofing homes, schools and other buildings.

Different solutions to deal with traffic noise need to be studied. Noises in hospitals, educational and other sensitive areas need to be prohibited. Such pollution need to be regulated by using several tools and scientific techniques together with a legal framework.

The major cause behind noise pollution is lack of awareness. People’s ignorance could lead to hearing loss, and the heart and other body parts could also be affected.

As there is no law to fully regulate the noise pollution issues, the government should bring about a comprehensive policy to control it within a proper legal framework. The law should provide monitoring as well as enforcement mechanism with required standard to regularise noise level.

At present, we may see few ‘No Horn’ signs near some hospitals or schools, which are mostly neglected by drivers. To create more awareness on noise pollution, there is need of frequent awareness training/workshops for drivers, pilots, students, business holders, and awareness campaign through media for the general public. The Traffic Police Office also need to add more sign boards to restrict vehicle horn noises near critical areas, and if possible pressure horn need to be banned in cities.

It is suggested that the pollution level in major cities of the country be regularly monitored. The government should prepare a Noise Control Policy by consulting different stakeholders before drafting a legal framework.

Living in a peaceful environment is also the right of person. The respective agencies should immediately start necessary home work to tackle noise pollution before it worsens the environment.

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