Noise pollution from generators—no remedy in sight

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Peshawar:  Anayatullah Marwat, 42, is increasingly becoming depressed and frustrated. He often takes out his anger on his kids. The noise of the generators installed in the common veranda he shares with other three neighbours in the compound they live in at Bara Gate Peshawar is driving him crazy.

“This noise is the only thing I can think of whenever I am at home. I become angry with my family for no apparent reason. I know, I am under stress, but I am unable to reconcile with the noises that surround me whether I am at home, in the office or on the street. “Look at the way we misuse horns. We do not speak but shout. We raise our voices on petty issues,” Marwat told News Lens Pakistan.

Noise pollution is defined as any unwanted or offensive sound that intrudes into our daily activities and distracts our attention. There could be many reasons for noise pollution, but most of them are associated with urban development such as road, air and rail transport. Others include industrial, recreational and neighbourhood noises. The noise produced by the generators falls in the latter category.

Like everywhere in Pakistan the energy crisis has taken toll on the life of the common man in Peshawar too. Twelve hours of power outages each day in urban areas has made generators a necessity for businesses and many households. Though other electricity generating devices are in use such as Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) and Solar Plates, generators are considered the best.

Mohammad Ijaz Khan Sabi, a lawyer, at Peshawar Supreme Court, who also deals with environmental cases, appears disappointed while talking to News Lens Pakistan, on the inability of the people to register their protest against noise pollution. Explaining the effect of the noise produced by the generators on the quality of our lives he says:   “We need to understand that generators not only produce noise, they also emit carbon monoxide, which is hundred times more hazardous than a cigarette.”

He once again blamed the people for not raising voice against noise and other pollution emanating from generators.

Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997 deals with the environmental pollution but there exists no law in Pakistan to deal exclusively with the problem of noise. In developed countries, specific laws had been enacted to control noise pollution. In England, there had been Noise Abatement Act 1960. In the US, Noise Pollution Act 1970 had been enacted for regulating control and abatement of noise. In Japan, Noise Control Law 1968 exists to handle the growing problem of noise pollution.

Even developing countries like India had taken measures to manage noise by enacting, The Noise pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.

There is however one platform that can be reached to address noise pollution.  In May 2013, the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir and all the High Courts of the country established ‘green benches’, to hear environmental related issues.

This move had come in pursuance of Bhurban Declaration 2012 adopted in the South Asia Conference on Environmental Justice on March 2012. The declaration titled, ‘A Common Vision on Environment for the South Asian Judiciaries,’ realised the necessity of the judiciary in South Asia to play its role in sustainable development and for the protection of the environment.

The green benches have been constituted to hear environmental issues that could not be prosecuted under the Environment Protection Act 1997.

According to Mohammad Bashir Khan, Director General Environmental Protection Agency Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two types of generators are used in Pakistan, one for the commercial purposes and the other for domestic consumption.

“The agency has the mandate to take notice of the pollution produced by the commercially used generators only. For the generators used domestically we have no legal jurisdiction to either control their usage or persecute the violators,” Khan told the News Lens Pakistan.

Pakistan Environment Protection Authority has established Environmental Quality Standard for motor vehicle exhaust and noise, but there exist no national standard to limit the noise level for residential areas, industrial areas, commercial areas or silence Zones.

Though no national survey has been conducted to record level of noise in cities, random tests conducted in different cities revealed that the noise level in most of the areas was as high as 70-90 dB (A) which is much higher than the acceptable level.

Talking to the News Lens Pakistan, the Doctor of Psychiatry and Assistant Professor at the Khyber Teaching hospital Peshawar Bashir Ahmad said that human beings could only tolerate sound to a certain level. Any noise beyond that tolerable level produces annoyance and irritation that can lead to aggression.

According to the World Health Organization, noise level of 35 to 40 dB outside a dwelling is acceptable and a maximum of 45dB is acceptable in a residential area.   Dr Bashir Ahmad is treating many patients suffering from sleep disorder and depression. He told this scribe that power outages and the noise produced by generators have affected the quality of life of many people.

A cycle of noise could result in violent behaviour in people. Similarly, noise causes hypertension, stress, sleep loss, hearing impairment and disturbed digestion.

Dr Bashir advises his patients to increase their level of tolerance and reconcile with the fact that they are facing energy crisis. Otherwise, he opines, people will kill themselves by getting agitated on petty matters just as Marwat is doing.

 

 

 

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