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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Noise pollution By Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh

The intensity of noise is measured in decibel units (dB). The human hearing range is from zero to 140 dB. While I was serving as head of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, we conducted a survey on noise pollution in Karachi. We found that the area surrounding the historic Merewether Tower was the noisiest place in the city with the noise level at 93.67 dB. Closely following the peak noise level were areas like Shershah (93.43 dB), Liaquatabad No. 10 (91.9 dB), Empress Market (90.17 dB) and Numaish Chowrangi at M.A. Jinnah Road (90.07 dB). To our surprise none of the 30 points selected for this survey showed noise levels of less than 80 dB.

In the case of vehicular traffic, the major sources of noise were fire-engine sirens, which generated a noise of 130 dB at source, ambulance sirens, generating a noise of 113 dB, and pressure horns installed in minibuses, trailers, oil tankers, etc. generating noise between 98-103 dB. In addition, about 60,000 two-stroke rickshaws with normal silencers generated around 85 dB each, while those without silencers went up to about 100 dB.

These are alarming results. The fact that the situation in the other cities of Pakistan is not very different from Karachi, as far as noise pollution is concerned, makes it a national issue. And at stake is the physical and mental health of our urban population.


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