* Health expert says noise pollution can trigger both physiological and psychological problems
Abdul Manan writing in Daily Times
LAHORE: Though the affluent areas of Lahore are quieter than rest of the city, the noise level in these areas is still far higher than the standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), an Environment Protection Department (EPD) official told Daily Times on Monday.
Noise intensity is measured in decibels (dB) to illustrate different noise levels. The WHO standard for residential areas is 45dB, for commerical areas 55 dB, and for industrial areas 65 dB. People can normally bear noise up to 45 dB, but from 120 dB the ear begins to experience pain, and this level of noise can also impair hearing if experienced over a long period.
The EPD official said the noise level was recorded at an average of 75 dB in Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Gulberg and Model Town. He said the average noise level in the industrial areas was recorded as above 120 dB. “Noise pollution could be dramatically decreased by banning rickshaws,” he said.
He said noise should be considered a nuisance rather than an environmental problem, but that the EPD had not yet established any standards of noise pollution. “The EPD should propose amendments in the Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997 in this regard,” he said, and added that major sources of noise were generators, vehicles, poor urban planning, factory machinery, construction work, aircraft, and railways.
Noise injures both physically and mentally: Mayo Hospital’s Dr Khalil said unwanted sound was defined as noise pollution. He said noise affects a person’s level of happiness and ability to perform activities. “Noise pollution can cause annoyance, aggression, and hypertension, and can impair hearing. Excessive exposure to loud noises can even cause tinnitus, a disorder in which a person hears sound in the absence of corresponding external sound,” he said.
Dr Najmul Hassan, an ear, neck and throat (ENT) specialist, said the hearing of young people, even in affluent areas, was being impaired because of increased levels of noise, including loud music. “Apart from loss of hearing, consistent exposure to loud noise can cause insomnia, irritability, heartburn, indigestion, ulcers, and hypertension. Frequent exposure to noise can cause physiological disturbances. High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular problems, and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight hour period can cause a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and increase stress levels,” he added.
Zulkarnain Khan, a zoologist, said birds abandoned their habitats when noise levels increased. This could be the reason less and less birds can now be seen in Lahore, he added. EPD Secretary Shahnawaz Bader said that the EPD was currently working on gas emissions. The EPD has sent its recommendations to the federal Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regarding noise pollution, he said, and added that noise could be dramatically decreased in the city by banning 2-stroke rickshaws and pressure horns. “There are 50,000 2-stroke rickshaws in the city. About 10,000 4-stroke rickshaws have replaced the old ones, but still there is a need for 40,000 more such rickshaws,” he said.