How about making Bangkok less noisy, governor?

Published: 7/01/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

Dear candidate for governor of Bangkok,I have received a leaflet outlining your policy if elected as governor of Bangkok and notice one glaring omission. You must be aware that Bangkok is one of the most noisy cities in the world. But you may not be aware of the extent of the suffering that this causes to all who dwell here. It is a long story and the complaints are many.

Consider the noise arising from the new airport, built and operated without any care for those affected by its too-close-proximity to urban areas. Nothing is being done to mitigate this nuisance.

A culture of noise has grown up so that every shopping centre, public park, children’s playground, hospital waiting area, train station, is flooded with competing and literally deafening sources of noise.

Apart from being a serious annoyance, the noise is a dangerous threat to health, as referral to documentation of the World Health Organisation will reveal to you. The problem is of such gravity that it is certainly imperative for you to include it in your policy statement, both under the heading of environment and public health.

May I suggest a defined overall policy of reducing the overall noise level by one decibel for each year you may spend in office? Over four years you will have reduced the noise level by 4dBs, which translates as a reduction in noise by more than one-half.

One wonders that many of your proposed policies must surely be outside the available budget. By contrast, the cost of the proposed noise policy is minimal. May I outline some very practical and simple measures which will progressively greatly reduce the overall noise level, improve the health of citizens, and save their being driven to distraction?

Make it illegal for any commercial enterprise to broadcast noise into a public space. Supermarkets and shops attract customers by broadcasting loud and obnoxious music at passers-by in the street. By all means let them ”entertain” those who have already entered their premises, and who have the option of walking out again if they do not wish to hear it.

In all spaces where people gather with the intention of talking to each other, direct that the maximum sound level must not exceed 55dB. This is the level where people separated from each other by a distance of one metre may still clearly speak and be understood. This applies especially to restaurants, school playgrounds, and the like.

Impose strict standards of noise limitation at night time in residential areas. The ideal should be to achieve levels of 35dB.

Ban loudspeakers from public parks. These areas are not fairgrounds but rather refuges where urban dwellers may escape from city noise pollution and hear the sounds of nature.

Take special care for the hearing of children so that no activity for them may have levels of noise which would endanger their delicate sense of hearing. Limit the sound levels available from personal players which are most destructive of hearing sensitivity. Give hearing tests in schools to all children and instruct them about the dangers of hearing loss.

Bangkok drivers are generally restrained in the use of horns. Mount a campaign to keep it so, as more crowded traffic appears to be encouraging more aggressive use of warning hoots.

Construct more sound barriers along the sides of motorways. Eliminate noisy motorbikes, trucks and buses which are the bane of our roads.

Initiate the drawing up of a noise map for Bangkok, as is now the practice in all major cities in the world. The map will indicate areas having the most severe problems and facilitate planning for overall noise reduction.

Reduce the currently permitted noise level of 90dB in industrial areas to achieve recognised standards of worker protection.

In times past, your predecessors seriously tackled the problem of litter and debris around the city, so that now visitors to our city praise its cleanliness. The problem of noise reduction is of a similar dimension, it requires effort and determination rather than a large budget. A legacy of noise reduction will earn you a warm place in the memory of this city.


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