Sound pollution too high‚ are authorities listening?

KATHMANDU: Although noise pollution adversely affects the lives of millions of people, the government is yet to draft a standard for noise measurement in the country.

The Ministry of Health and Population, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology and Metropolitan Traffic Police Division do not have any concrete programmes to deal with unwanted noise that can affect both physiological and psychological health.

Regular exposure to noise could cause hypertension, temporary or permanent hearing loss, stress, sleeplessness, fright, distraction, among other diseases, says Dr Hari Bhattarai, Otolaryngologist at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.

Despite lesser number of industrial areas, the increasing number of vehicles and other noise sources is increasing the noise pollution, says Dr Bhattarai. “Noise pollution could severely affect health of a person if exposed to it for a longer period of time.

“It is high time the government geared up for formulating legislation to control sound pollution in the country. A lack of monitoring body to check sound pollution has posed a tougher challenge for human health.”

According to Meena Khanal, Spokesperson, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, the government is formulating a standard to measure noise for the first time in the country.

“The draft of the standard will be competed by the end of this fiscal,” she said. The national standard will be drafted on the basis of international standards laying down maximum permissible noises.

“It will be in the form of recommendations, guidelines or statutory requirement as per economic, technological and industrial situations of the area,” Devi Prasad Bhandari, a chemist at pollution division at the ministry informed.

Although the ministry has a mandate to enforce noise standards through Environment Protection Act and Environment Protection Rules, there is no rules, standards or guidelines till date, added Bhanari.

Except for few awareness programmes incorporated with other health programmes, the health ministry does not have a single programme to address noise pollution, said Badri Bahadur Khadka, Director of National Health, Education, Information and Communication Centre at MoHP.

SP Deb Bahadur Bohara, Spokesperson, Metropolitan Traffic Police Division said that they were carrying out regular programmes to remove pressure horns to minimise noise pollution.

According to data collected by Luzza Nepal, a local NGO, in three phases from January 9 to 13, February 12 to 17 and March 21 to 26 this year in six different places having high traffic density in the Valley, all the places were found to have noise level exceeding the standard. The sound was recorded at Old Bus Park, Shahid Gate, Nepal Airlines Corporation tempo stand, Jamal, Baneshwor and Chabahil.

According to the World Health Organisation, the noise level exceeding 60 db can cause health hazard.

The maximum and minimum sound was recorded at Shahid Gate (80.3db) and Baneshwor (76.6db), respectively, from January 9 to 13. Similarly, 87.95 db was recorded at Chabahil in maximum level followed by minimum at Old Bus Park which was 72.25 db from February 12 to 17.

Likewise, maximum sound was recorded at NAC tempo stand (80.35 db) and minimum at Old Bus Park and Jamal which was 76.5 db.

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