Noise pollution is attributed to traffic, factories and constructions sites. With the increase in the number of vehicles, traffic congestion in big cities has become more severe and the engine noise is growing. The horning habit of drivers only worsens the problem.
Loud music from bars, restaurants and stores is also disruptive. Proprietors often blast out promotional music at an ear-piercing decibel (dBA) level.
Nguyen Thanh Huyen from the capital’s Cau Giay district said living on Xuan Thuy Street, lined by stores selling various kinds of products from clothes, electronics and mobile phones to food, is really uncomfortable.
“The stores often play music loudly to get customers to buy their products, and it even lasts until midnight. It is really disruptive when people want to go to sleep and have to get up early to go to work,” she said.
According to the national standard issued in 2010, noise level limit for special areas like hospitals and schools is 55dBA and 45dBA between 6am and 9pm and 9pm to 6am, respectively. The figure for residential areas is 70dBA and 55dBA, respectively.
But HCM City reported in April 2016 that 97.08% of noise at 12 traffic points exceeded the national standard. The figure in 2015 is 90.27%.
In Hanoi, the Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering measured the noise level on some key streets in different districts in 2015, also finding that the noise level exceeded permissible limits, reaching between 74-107dBA.
According to medical experts, people living or working near noisy places are susceptible to neurological diseases, headaches, difficult concentrating and higher anxiety levels.
Dr Nguyen Thi Ngat from Bạch Mai Hospital in Hanoi said that normally, people can hear in the range from 0-125 decibels. However, if their ears are exposed to a continuous blast of 105 decibels, they will suffer from ear pain.
Hearing continuous and prolonged noise could cause permanent hearing loss, she said.
Under current regulations, causing noise exceeding allowed levels is subject to fines of up to VND160 million (US$7,000) for individuals, and VND320 million (US$14,000) for organisations. Violators are also required to suspend operations for three months to a year, depending on the levels of their infringements.
However, enforcement is hard. It is not easy to catch noise polluters red-handed, unlike catching visible polluters such as waste water and rubbish dumpers, according to deputy head of the Vietnam Environmental Administration Hoang Duong Tung.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s inspectors regularly check and supervise noise levels at businesses and production sites, but they only issue warnings to violators.
The biggest measure to deal with the problem is raising public awareness of the impact of causing too much noise, he said.