The music blaring out of cars to annoying vehicle horns, from deafening fireworks at weddings to irritating chime of mobile phones, our ears are exposed to incessant battering that can take a serious toll on health. This unnoticed and often ignored form of pollution was the topic of discussion here at a symposium on “Effective Measures to Eradicate Noise Pollution.”
In recent years, noise levels have gone up in cities with the increase in urban development but the issue has still not aroused public attention and is generally deemed as mere annoyance. “Noise pollution is not considered a serious issue in our society owing to its intangible nature” observed Dr Azra Yasmin, environmentalist and head of Fatima Jinnah Women University’s Environmental studies department, speaking at the seminar.
Shahid Mehmood, a PhD scholar from Arid University, informed the hall-packed audience that “noise 140 decibels (sound level) can cause serious and immediate damage to health” while prolonged exposure to noise above 85-90 decibels can cause hearing loss. Disability from excessive sound also includes cardiovascular diseases, sleep disruption, diminished productivity.
Today, millions of Pakistanis endure noise pollution every day caused by planes, road traffic, stereos, electronic gadgets et cetera. Traffic related noise, however, is said to account for nearly two-third of the total noise pollution in an urban area. “ Aircraft noise is one of the biggest form of noise pollution in the country” told Professor Dr Azra Yasmin. “What we lack is urban planning. Nowhere in the world are residential areas and airports as close as in Pakistan” she maintained. The reason why airports are located far from the residential areas worldwide is to minimise the noise issues as it causes serious health problems such as hearing problems, sleep disturbance and decreased performance among the residents as well as environmental.
Focus on individual responsibility is needed to create an environmentally friendly society since merely government legislations cannot help curtail noise pollution. This refreshing suggestion was the crux of the symposium organized by Human Appeal International-Pakistan (HAI-Pak).
“Charity begins at home. So let’s start from our homes and commit that we will not tease anyone in our homes, offices, neighborhoods and anywhere with a loud noise” said Nisar Ahmed, Country Director of HAI-Pak. “We can start from our offices and homes by launching ‘Green Office Campaign’ to spread awareness about noise pollution” said Shaheer Elahi from Human Resource Development Network (HRDN). “Silence zones should also be established and fine on unnecessary use of horns must be implemented” proposed Durre Shahwar, a student.