Shyamol Nandy, 28, a private job holder in the port city, has been suffering from hearing problems since last year. His physician advised him to avoid excessive noise. Due to the nature of his job, however, Nandy has to travel by public transportation to several locations in the city, which puts him in difficulty.
Furthermore, a residential apartment is under construction beside his office, making it hard to avoid loud noises.
Nandy said he is required to go outside twice a day during his office hours, and horns of public transport cause him health problems such as headaches and earaches.
Many people are experiencing the same problem as Nandy. A growing population, several mega projects, and an increasing number of transportation are the main factors contributing to sound pollution in the port city nowadays.
In the absence of proper monitoring, negligent behaviour of drivers, and no punishment, the problem remains denied by all authorities.
According to physicians, ENT patients are increasing by two times more in Chattogram, while drivers-helpers, construction workers and students make up the majority of the patients.
Dr Nurul Karim Chowdhury of Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) said everyday 80-90 patients visit his chambe, while among them 45% are suffering from hearing damage.
The number of patients suffering from noise pollution and excessive sounds is increasing, he said, adding that they are also suffering from heart and mental illnesses.
Chowdhury also emphasised that the horn (hydraulic) is especially harmful to children. If a child under three years old hears a sound producing 100 decibels (dB) of noise from close quarters, they might lose hearing power.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), generally 60 dB sounds can make a man deaf temporarily and 100 dB sounds can cause complete deafness. The noise levels in the port city's busy streets like Agrabad, Maa o Shisu Hospital, Lalkhan Bazar, GEC, have been estimated at 67 to 78.5 dB, where the sound must be below 50db.
The Environmental Department reported in 2014 that the average sound level in residential areas was 60 dB, while in 2016 it was 70-72 dB.
At this time, the sound levels reached around 80-90 dB in the industrial and commercial areas of the city. At present only 12 spots are under surveillance in the city while there is no surveillance at heavy industrial and commercial areas.
In 2016 January, 89 dB was recorded at GEC intersection, while CEPZ area 92 dB, Bahadderhat intersection 90 dB, Nasirabad industrial area 77 dB, Panchlish residential area 74.5 dB, OR Nizam road 76.5 dB.
This November the record at Agrabad area was 90dB, GEC, 93 dB, Nasirabad 80 db, CEPZ 96 dB, Panchlish 77 dB, and OR Nizam road 82 dB.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change took a three-year long (January, 2020-December, 2022) plan for 68 districts with a budget of Tk4,798.480 lakh called 'Project of controlling noise pollution and participation'. The Environment department monitored the projects.
The aim of the project is -- implementation of the environmental noise regulations 2006, collecting data about noise source, decibels, effect and taking some piloting activities to reduce noise pollution in Chattogram.
The Chattogram City Corporation has declared the Jamalkhan and adjacent 100 metres and Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) area along with 100 metres as the silent zones in January, 2021.
But the transports plying around the areas during school time are not following the rules amid lack of monitoring.
Israt Reza, Deputy Secretary and Director of Chattogram laboratories of Environment Department, told The Business Standard, "Increasing number of transports and construction works cause sound pollution in the city."
There are laws against sound pollution, but people don't know about those because they are not concerned, and so they continue to suffer from hydraulic horns, she added.
Reza also said that the environment department once a month conducts mobile court and destroys hydraulic horns and fines those using it, adding that they should build awareness and educate drivers rather than only the mass people, transport labourers are also victims of noise pollution.
As a part of the project, the environment department organised seminars with Chattogram Metropolitan Police, Transport owners and Transport labourers and explained about the noise pollution.
Trucks and covered vans are using hydraulic horns more than other public transports and have so far been ffined them Tk15,000, said Shakila Sultana, Deputy Commissioner of Traffic (Port) of CMP.
She also said that though they had two sound detectors for each zone, those were not used properly. Motorcycles are using horns during traffic jams and they are not being considered the reason for sound pollution, she added.
Shakila also said that lack of coordination among the Environment Department, CMP and the city corporation, along with a lack of an area-specific sound pollution chart, were further problems.