Vietnam News

Noise pollution in big cities frays residents’ nerves

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Thuy Nga’s family lives on the 4th floor of an apartment building but they never dare to open the window due to the constant roar of traffic.

The traffic noise can’t be avoided because the apartment is close to the Hanoi Ring Road No. 3.

But, when this combines with the “screams of children, the sound of drilling holes in the wall, the sounds of husband and wife arguing, parents scolding children, broken dishes…it makes us very uncomfortable every time I open the door to the balcony,” Nga said.

The noise makes it hard for the children to talk or study, she added.

Hoang Lan’s family, also living on the fourth floor, is unable to escape loud noises despite choosing to purchase a home away from the main road.

Her family and other residents of the 4th floor of the Linh Dam apartment complex in Hanoi have had endure months of loudspeaker noise from the complex’s common area.

“The noise is never-ending. Even when condo houses are closed on the weekends, you can’t sleep any more because of the loud music coming from speakers,” Lan said.

The residents have complained about the issue to the building’s management for months, but the noise only stopped for several days before returning to “normal.”

Urban noise pollution is not a recent issue, but a clear remedy seems to have escaped everyone, including policy makers. In a 350-person online survey conducted by VnExpress on October 18, just about every respondent said they’d suffered from the noise problem. 50% said they’d reported the issue to building authorities and 37% said they would install their own noise-canceling solutions.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bui Thi An, head of the Institute of Natural Resources and Environment, said that authorities have not paid enough attention and it was inflicting a lot of damage.

She said just about every activity including karaoke music, household tasks, industrial processes, construction and transportation contributes to noise pollution. Blaring karaoke music, both in commercial establishments and homes, has been a persistent problem in cities.

Local authorities have cracked down on mobile karaoke services following complaints about their loudness at night.

“More than 8 million people reside in Hanoi, which also has over 7 million vehicles, dozens of industrial parks, and a wide range of commercial and leisure activities. Increased noise pollution is the outcome of all of that when combined with rapid urbanization, ” An said, adding that studies show the noise pollution problem is getting worse.

For instance, a study by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health at 12 major highways and intersections in Hanoi measured the average daytime noise at 77.8 to 78.1 dBA, well above the permissible standard by 7.8-8.1 dBA. The average noise level at night was 65.3–75.7 dBA, above the recommended range by 10–20 dBA.

Tragicomedy plays

Lan said tensions over the unbearable noise occasionally leads to strange incidents like the one on October 16 when a group of youngsters played funeral music to retaliate against dancing music played by a group of senior citizens.

A residential group leader in the Linh Dam condo complex confirmed the incident, adding that the elderly group had been spoken to but continued to repeat the activity.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment must certify sound analysis and measurements, failing which it becomes challenging to fine actions that cause noise pollution, several experts have said.

They have also pointed out the anomaly in the rule that requires background noise (traffic, conversations, and sounds from adjacent businesses) to be subtracted from the noise level analysis, when in reality, background noise levels have also above the permitted threshold in many instances.

Nga, 30, said her family members have had to visit a doctor to get treated for insomnia caused by the noise that lasts from dawn until night.

They also see no respite in sight.

According to Dr. Tran Thi Hong Thu, Deputy Director and Head of the Clinical Department at Mai Huong Psychiatric Hospital in Hanoi, there are 10–20% more patients seeking treatment for insomnia than in pre-Covid times. The usual causes include stress and/or noise at work or home.

In addition to the noise from daily activities, people who live close to traditional artisan villages, machine and welding shops must also put up with excessive noise.

Nhu Hong Ngoc, 28, rents a house in Me Tri Village in Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem region (Hanoi). The area is well known for the tradition of preparing “com” (young rice). “The constant pounding of rice by mills and grinders from three in the morning until now gives me a headache and raises my heart rate. I needed to check this at the hospital.”

Hearing impairments are affecting more and younger people, Dr. Do Hong Giang, Head of the Department of Audiology at the Ho Chi Minh City Otolaryngology Hospital, told VnExpress in April 2021.

Most patients at the clinic used to elderly or young children with congenital issues, but over the last few years, more people over 40 have started showing up.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 25% of the world’s population will have hearing issues by 2050. From 1.6 billion in 2019 to 2.5 billion in the next three decades, the number of people at risk of suffering hearing loss will be significantly higher.

Ngoc said she is a tough situation. “Since this (pounding rice) is how households here make a living, I am can’t ask that they stop producing. Moving away to a quieter place is the only thing that will help my hearing.”

The issue of noise pollution in Vietnamese cities has some factors that hinder effective solutions, according to Dr. Truong Hoang Truong, dean of the faculty of urban studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. These include a lack of sense of community and rules and regulations that are not strict enough.

Nga dreams of a day when she has more money to move to a better condo so she can live away from busy roads and business districts.

“I need to find a long-term solution for myself and my family rather than endure noise like this all the time.”

By Quynh Nguyen – – November 1, 2022

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