We need sound practices to reduce our health risks in this noisy capital city. Are the city authorities listening? An inside page headline in this daily the other day, for example, screamed about the ‘burgeoning’ noise and the risk it posed to the public health. In the usual din and bustle of city life, the message of the news report must have fallen on deaf ears and disappeared. By getting accustomed to living in a high decibel environment in the homes, offices, roads and restaurants, we may be silently suffering the damage to our physiological and psychological health. Excessive noise, experts say, causes hypertension, headache, loss of hearing, concentration and productivity, stress, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, fright, distraction and irritation. It hampers our normal activities and diminishes our quality of life. Motor vehicles, construction sites, factories and modern gadgets, among other things, produce noise that harms human health when it crosses the safe limit.
A recent study found the average noise level for Kathmandu to be 79 decibels. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 60 dB of noise is harmful. The national noise standards have set the safe limits at 45 dB in rural residential areas, 55 dB in urban areas, 75 dB in industrial areas, 65 dB in business areas and a maximum of 50 dB in hospital and school areas. In the study, however, Shahid Gate produced the highest level of noise at 80 dB, while New Baneswor area showed the lowest level at about 77 dB, with the Nepal Airlines Corporation office area, Chabahil, Old Bus Park and Jamal coming in between the two levels. When conducted again in these areas, the study showed the highest noise level was recorded at Chabahil at about 87 dB.
These measurements may not be foolproof as indications of what exists at the moment in different places of Kathmandu, but they do make a compelling call on the city authorities to start work to reduce noise. This is important because, as the news report says, many people are unaware about noise pollution and its consequences. Many take noise for granted. Anyone who returns to Kathmandu after a few days in a tranquil surrounding will notice how irritating the noise here is.
Let’s take a peek into our own neighbourhoods. The sounds of music and machines, from TV sets to grinders, often rent the air here. We notice the noise when a neighbour complains that it took his sleep away or a visitor waits outside the doors, ringing on the doorbell and receiving no response from inside homes. We may be actually shouting at each other while taking it for a normal talk in the living rooms, or when we meet friends at roads and in restaurants. We all know this. The need, then, is of a noise policy and guidelines that will help us all live a healthier, better life. Hello, city authorities are you listening?