PAKISTAN is facing many environmen
tal challenges, which pose serious threats
to human health and life. Among these serious threats one of the major threat is noise pollution. Noise is derived from the Latin word “nausea” implying ‘unwanted sound’ or ‘loud sound’ that is indicated to be the environmental stressor and nuisance causing anxiety, depression, frustration and many other health-related problems. We cannot see noise pollution but it is present everywhere. It’s an everyday trouble that increases day by day imposing very deleterious effect on the well-being and work performance of those who are exposed to it.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). The World Health Organization (WHO) describes that the noise level above 70 dB is painful and may cause harm to human health. According to the WHO’s criteria, noise levels in a residential area should be 45dB, 55dB in commercial areas and 65 in industrial areas. In Pakistan the megacities i.e. Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar face the issue of noise pollution. Noise levels in Pakistan have reached critical levels with average noise values of 76.5dB being recorded in Karachi, 72.5dB in Islamabad, 86dB in Peshawar, and 80dB in Lahore. Noise pollution is not caused due to release of chemicals or toxins or hazardous gases but is just the loud noise generated in the environment especially due to human activities. Some of the main sources of the noise pollution are air craft noise, railroads noise, industrial noise, noise generated by the road traffic and by the construction sites (buildings, highways, city streets, flyovers, etc), noise created in home on a daily basis (due to electrical home appliances, plumbing, generators, air conditioners, boilers, fans, etc), and noise from consumer products (like household equipments, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, washing machine, mixer, juicer, pressure cooker, TV, mobile, dryer, cooler, etc).
Poor urban planning in many countries also contribute to noise pollution as it includes the construction of crowded houses having large families in small space (causing fight for parking and for basic requirements, etc). New generation people play music in full volume causing lots of physical and mental disturbance especially to the neighbours. Using headphones cause damage to ear and may also lead to permanent hear loss.
Though the causes of noise pollution are not like others, but the effects are as harmful as other types of pollution. It directly penetrates into human mind and leads to mental disorder as a major result. The most common health problem it causes is Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Loud noise can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, bad behaviour, irritation, hypertension, depression, annoyness, aggression and stress. These health problems can affect all age groups, especially children. Many children who live near noisy airports or streets have been found to suffer from stress and other problems, such as impairments in memory, attention level and reading skill.
After knowing serious problems caused by noise pollution we must take serious steps to control it. We can reduce Noise pollution by turning off appliances when not in use, lowering the volume while listening songs, radio and TV. We must plant more trees as they are considered to be the good noise absorbent and can absorb noise from 5dB to 10dB. Vehicles must be checked regularly and good lubricant must be used to improve their efficiency. Using headphones should be avoided. Laws should be made by government to meet such condition. Noise created by horns of engine, loudspeaker and other noise making source must be prohibited in school and hospital area specially. Public awareness should be made through seminars, leaflets, posters etc. Loud noise can make you deaf; keep the noise down to keep your health up.
—The writer is a freelancer & occassionallly contributes for national dalies.