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LESS NOISE CITIES

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A  RECOMMENDATION FOR NOISE AWARENESS CAMPAIGN IN MEGA-CITIES OF SOUTH EAST ASIA

SEA FORUM FOR SOUND HEARING

 

BACKGROUND

 

 

Global Population and Megacities

 

According to the “World Population Data Sheet,” global population will rise 46  percent  between  now  and  2050  to  about  nine  billion.  While  developed countries  are losing  population  because  of  falling  birth  rates  and  carefully controlled  immigration  rates (only  the  U.S. reverses this trend, with 45 percent growth to 422 million predicted by 2050),   population is  exploding   in   the developing world. More than half of the world's population live in urban areas in Asia.

 

Megacities is a term coined by the UN to describe cities with at least 10 million  inhabitants.  Some definitions  also  set  a  minimum  level  for  population density  (at  least  2,000  persons  / square km).  The  17  largest  megacities  in  the world  are:  Tokyo,  Mexico  City,  Seoul,  New  York, Sao Paulo,  Mumbai,  Delhi, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Dhaka, Istanbul, Jakarta, Karachi, Kolkata.

 

But  by  2015  this  list  will  change,  with  Tokyo  remaining  the  largest city (then with 27.2 million), followed by Dhaka (Bangladesh), Mumbai, Sao Paulo, New Delhi (at the 5th place) and Mexico City (each with more than 20 million). New York will have moved down to seventh place, followed by Jakarta, Calcutta, Karachi and Lagos (all with more than 16 million). There will be a total of 33 mega-cities, 27  of  them in the developing  world.  Five  of  them  are  in  the South  East  Asia  region.  In  addition,  Bangkok  has  a  population  of  more  than  9 million and could soon be included.

 

Environmental Noise

 

Noise  is  unwanted  sound.  More  and  more  people  living  in  densely populated  areas  live  in  noisy  environments.  This  has  its  consequences  for  the general level of health. The rise of mega-cities, poses formidable challenges in health care and the environment, in both the developed and  developing  world. The urban poor in developing countries live in squalor unlike anything they left behind.  Mega-cities  suffer  from  a  catalog  of  environmental  ills.  In  the  last decades, noise levels have risen tremendously in major cities all over the world, especially in the developing countries, including cities of the South East  Asia  countries.  The  increase  of  modern  conveniences  in  the  densely populated cities brought with it a lot of noise. The cumulative effect of traffic, factories,   audio   equipment,   cell   phones,   airplanes,   are   all   adding   to unwanted noise to the city’s environment.

 

Excessive  motorcycle  noise  due  to  bypassing  the  mufflers  is  a  most common  problem  in  developing  countries,  especially  for  the  youth.  Jet  engine noise comes predominately from two sources. An approaching jet creates a high- pitched whine as the fan pulls air into the engine. As the jet passes by, a low- pitched  rumble  is  created  by  exhaust  leaving  the  engine.  Freeways  are  a ubiquitous source of noise pollution.

 

Modern city noise poses a serious threat to city dwellers' hearing ability. Excessive noise exposures threatens not only hearing, but also the physical and mental well-being.

 

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

 

Noise  is  one  of  the  leading  causes  of  hearing  loss  in  the  28  million people  with  impaired  hearing  in  the  United  States  alone,  and  health  statistics suggest  a  trend  that  the  incidence  of  hearing  loss  is  occurring  at  younger  and younger    ages. Noise-induced  hearing oss, though preventable, is permanent.  The  unit  used  to  measure  environmental  sound  intensity  is  the decibel  (dBA).  Zero  decibels  is  approximately  the  softest  sound  the  healthy human  ear  can  hear.  The  scale  increases  logarithmically;  that  is,  the  level  of perceived  loudness  doubles  every  3  decibels.  Experts  agree  that  continued exposure  to  noise  above  85  dBA,  over  time,  will  eventually  harm  hearing.  In general,  the  louder  the  sound,  the  less  time  required  before  hearing  will  be affected.

 

Loud noise assaults the delicate hair cells of the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss typically occurs gradually and without pain. After exposure to loud noise, a person may experience ringing in the ears or difficulty hearing. This is called a "temporary threshold shift". After a few hours (or in some cases, a few days), this temporary shift in hearing returns to normal. With repeated exposure, however,   this   temporary   shift   in   hearing   can   become   permanent.   Once permanent  hearing  damage  has  occurred,  it  is  not  possible  to  restore hearing.

 

Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative across the life span. Often, by the time a person realizes that there is hearing loss, it is already too late. Early warning signs are: 1) a ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in the ears immediately after exposure to noise.; 2) A slight muffling of sounds after exposure making it difficult  to  understand  people  when  you  leave  a  noisy  area; 3) Difficulty understanding speech.

 

Effect of Noise on  Health

 

Exposure to noise, or unwanted sound, however, is far more than just a threat  to  the  ears  and hearing  function.  Studies  have  correlated  noise  with physiological changes in sleep, blood pressure and digestion. Studies have also  linked  noise  with  a  negative  impact  on  the developing  fetus.  Unwanted noise creates stress and makes people tense and angry.  Studies have found noise to be associated with increased aggression and violent behavior.

 

Hearing protection

 

To avoid noise-induced hearing loss, the exposure to loud noise around human  beings  has  to  be decreased  whenever  possible.  Time  spent  in  noisy sports  events,  rock  concerts,  listening  to loud  audio  devices  should  be  limited. Adequate  hearing  protection,  such  as  foam  ear  plugs or  ear  muffs,  should  be used  in  a  noisy  environment,  industry,  noisy  work  places,  or  when using  loud equipment.

 

New technologies are providing innovative ways to reduce sound levels. Aircraft engineers are finding ways to reduce the noise produced by jet engines. Currently,  barrier  walls  and  earthen  beams  are  the  primary  noise  mitigation strategies,   cutting   the   sound   that   reaches   nearby   homes   by   10-15   dBA. However,  these  structures  are  expensive  to  build.  In  addition,  because  sound waves have a tendency to bend over and around objects and to spread out with distance, barrier walls are only effective in reducing sound at distances of less than  400  meters  from  the  roadway.  One  of  the  more  promising  approaches  to reducing road noise involves the use of rubberized asphalt pavement. Manufacturers of building components are also making exciting advances in the field  of  noise  reduction.  Traditionally,  architects  and  builders  have  used  two methods  to  reduce  sound  transmission  through  walls,  floors,  and  ceilings.  The first is to install materials with air pockets (e.g., insulation) that trap sound waves; the second is to increase wall thickness. These approaches may work for new construction, but they are difficult and costly to implement in existing buildings, where  walls  must  be  gutted  and  rebuilt.  Recently,  soundproofing  materials  are produced that can easily be added to new or existing walls to achieve remarkable reductions in sound transmission.

 

SOME FACTS AND FIGURES

 

Sound levels are typically measured in decibels (dB). Humans hear sound within  a  limited frequency  range,  which  is  reflected  in  a  value  known  as  A- weighted dB, or dBA.

According to community noise guidelines published in 1999 by the World Health Organization, for a good night's sleep background sound levels should not exceed 30 dBA. In outdoor living areas, sounds above 50 dBA are annoying to humans.  The  Occupational  Safety  and  Health Administration  (OSHA)  requires employers to provide workers with hearing protection if they are exposed to an 8- hour time-weighted average of 85 dBA or more. For those living or working near flight  paths  of  major  airports,  the  noise  of  aircraft  taking  off  and  landing  can exceed 100 dBA.

 

THE SIZE OF THE PROBLEM

 

According to the infrastructure study In the South East Asia region (2002), most countries have laws for prevention of deafness from noise, except in Nepal and Sri Lanka, but there is still a great need to strengthen the law enforcement mechanism.  There  is  no  mapping  out  noise  in  heavily  populated  areas.  The authorities are still lacking behind in educating the population about noise, and develop plans of action on how to lower noise pollution from auto traffic, trains, airplanes and industry. In the developing countries, there is no directive by the city authorities to protect the city inhabitants against noise. On the other hand, the awareness of the public on hazards of excessive noise is very low.

 

SOUND HEARING 2030 INITIATIVE

 

SEA  FORUM  FOR  SOUND  HEARING  is  a  permanent  organization,  its General  Body  consisting of  representatives  of  IFOS,  SAARC  ENT  Society, ASEAN   ORL   HNS   Society,   ISA,   CBM,  IMPACT,   HI,   WHO,   and   national delegates   from   eleven   countries:   Bangladesh,   Bhutan,  DPR   Korea,   India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor Leste. Its scope is to work towards elimination of avoidable hearing loss, in the South East Asia region.  Key challenges include knowing how to establish partnerships with potential  regional  stakeholders,  as  well  as  to  create  a  climate  in  which  this collaboration can most  effectively support  the communities/ countries / areas it wishes  to  help.  In  the  future  it  is  hoped  that  SOUND  HEARING  2030  initiative can be a model for a global initiative.

 

Its  “vision”  is  to  improve  health  and  well-being  of  people  of  South  East Asia  through  better  hearing.  Its  “mission”  is  to  eliminate  avoidable  hearing impairment  by  the  year  2030  through  development  of  sustainable  ear  and hearing care systems.  The “goal” is to reduce avoidable hearing impairment to 50% by 2015 and 90% by 2030. The activities of this newly formed initiative will  be  establishment  of  the  organization,  fundraising,  and  ongoing  campaigns. In the near future, hopefully at least one model multi-country pilot project could be  selected  every year  in  partnership  an  international  NGO  and  the  National Committees for ear and hearing health care in the countries.

 

SEA  FORUM  FOR  SOUND  HEARING  has  put  Hearing  Conservation Programs as part of the strategy in reaching its goal. Through the LESS NOISE CITIES program, it is hoped that committees or professional groups can promote policies,  legislation  and  enforcement  of  these  for  noise control  with  special attention industrial noise and to youth and their risk at entertainment centers. For this purpose, all stake holders have to be taken on board.

 

LESS NOISE CITIES: STRATEGY

 

1.     Distribute recommendation to focal persons and groups

2.     Take on board all stakeholders

3.     Focus on Awareness building

4.     Get funding and support from the private sectors /businesses

5.     Promote community empowerment

6.     Any other appropriate strategy

 

 

LESS NOISE CITIES: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTIVITIES

 

1.     Promote LETTER-WRITING CAMPAIGNS.

2.     Conduct ONLINE PETITION DRIVES.

3.     LOBBY state administrators and elected officials

4.     LOBBY City/Municipality administrators and elected officials

5.     LOBBY the legislative body / council of state and city

6.     LOBBY stores and corporations.

7.     LOBBY manufacturers and engineers.

8.     BILLBOARD campaign

9.     Campaign through ADS ON CITY BUSES, CITY TRAIN OR TRAMS

10.   Appear on TELEVISION PROGRAMS.

11.   Appear on RADIO PROGRAMS.

12.   Pitch stories to NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES.

13.   Write MAGAZINE ARTICLES.

14.   Speak to SCHOOL STUDENTS

15.   Speak to CIVIC GROUPS.

16.   Produce and distribute BROCHURES / public service announcements.

17.   Locate  and  promote  a  CELEBRITY  SPOKESMAN  for  the  anti-noise cause.

18.   Work with other ANTI-NOISE ORGANIZATIONS.

19.   Persuade  the  "ENVIRONMENTAL  MOVEMENT"  to  join  against  noise pollution.

20.    Form neighborhood, local, and campus chapters.

21.   Issue "NOISY DOZEN" awards to major noise polluters.

22.   Promote  INTERNATIONAL  NOISE  AWARENESS  DAY  (sponsored  by the Noise Center of the League for the Hard of Hearing).

23.   Promote an ANNUAL NOISE FREE WEEK.

24.   Take part in EARTH DAY ACTIVITIES.

25.   Distribute "YOU'RE TOO LOUD" STICKERS and bumper stickers

26.   Distribute T-SHIRTS.

27.   Publish booklets on noise pollution.

28.   Work with CONSUMER ADVOCACY groups. Create a directory of noise complaint  information,  so  that  individuals  in  specific  cities  will  know whom to call to complain about noise.

29.   Promote QUIET PRODUCTS AND BUSINESSES.

30.   Issue "commentary" PRESS RELEASES.

31.   File class action LAWSUITS against major noise polluters.

 

LESS NOISE CITIES: PROGRAM OUTLINE

 

SOUTH  EAST  ASIA  FORUM  FOR  SOUND  HEARING  2030  recommends  a LESS NOISE CITIES initiative for the development of awareness for the public as well as the policy makers of cities of South East Asia countries.

 

The  cities  that  will  be  motivated  are  all  the  capital  cities  of  the  SEA  countries (Dhaka, New Delhi, Jakarta, Bangkok, Colombo, Kathmandu, Yangoon, Timpu), as well as other mega-cities in the region (Calcutta, Mumbai). Other cities may of course   be    included,   because   noise   pollution   also    occurs   in   small    but overcrowded cities.

 

A  CITY  FORUM  will  have  to  be  elected,  consisting  of  focal  persons  National Committee for ear and hearing health, Professional groups, MOH, City Council, City  Authorities,  Ministry  of Environment,  WHO  representative,  NGOs,  and consumers  advocacy  groups.  This  Forum  will develop  a  broad  outline  of  the action plan for the city.

 

 

Each  CITY  FORUM  will  have  to  propose  their  own  budget  according  to  their needs and cost, and define their available private institutions that will support this cause.  The  CITY  FORUM  has to work  closely  with  these  DONOR  AGENCIES from the private sector.

 

 

THE DONOR AGENCIES from the private sectors (oil companies, cellular phone companies, telecommunication providers, audio equipment producers, recording producers) will support the funding for the LESS NOISE CITIES program.

 

 

SOCIETY  FOR  SOUND  HEARING  will  act  as  motivator  and  resource  center, provide  advocacy, and  promote  networking  among  the  CITY  FORUMS  for sharing  the  results  and  lesson learned  from the program through Inter-Country meetings and other communication means.

 

 

Source: soundhearing2030.org

 


 

 

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