Noise pollution in the capital metropolis has jumped up to 35 percent causing serious hazards to human health, especially to school-going children, due to lack of coordination among the Punjab Environmental Protection Department, Transport and Traffic Departments.
The alarming raise in pollution is causing widespread diseases including hearing defects, insomnia, indigestion, heart burn, ulcers, hypertension and psychological disorders among the inhabitants of the city.
No department related to checking noise pollution is ready to accept the responsibility of negligence and have taken the course of blaming each other for not taking action against the violators of the rules that help control noise pollution. Environmental Protection Department said it was only responsible for making policies while the Transport Department was responsible for controlling noise pollution in coordination with the Traffic Police. On the other hand, the Transport Department, denying the allegation, said the department was not registering two-stroke vehicles nor giving road permits to them and all two stroke vehicles were illegal. Environmental Department said the inspectors wore plain clothes and no noise-emitting vehicles stop at their orders so they were totally dependent on Transport Department and Traffic Police.
However, a sources privy to the Environmental Department revealed that the lack of equipment and staff was the greatest hindrance in the way of measuring traffic noise level in various parts of the city on daily basis as the department had eight inspectors only who shared four Sound Level metres. According to the sources, the inspectors were expected to measure noise level within the radius of 7.5 meters randomly on daily basis and these eight inspectors only cover eight to ten locations. The sources further said the EPD focused only on smoke-emitting vehicles and ignored noise pollution while the high-ups concentrated their energies on attending meetings and doing paperwork. Transport Department said they were not authorised to check the fitness of the private vehicles and motorbikes and the vehicles running on diesel were the main cause of noise pollution and there should be legislation to amend the transport laws according to requirements.
EXTREMELY HIGH LEVEL NOISE POLLUTION:
Pakistan Today has learnt that the noise pollution level has touched 85 to 95 decibels in various parts of the city, exceeding the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline values of 45db to 55db for residential areas and 65 to 70db for commercial areas greatly. .
National Environment Quality Standards and Punjab Environmental Protection Department (EPD) have laid down the traffic noise level at 75db within the radius of 7.5 meters. The main sources of traffic noise are two-stroke auto rickshaws, motorcycles, buses, minibuses, trucks, water tanks, pickups, wagons but the champion of noise pollution is two-stroke rickshaws. The Environmental Department said it was decided in 2004 by the then government that two stroke rickshaws should be phased out completely by 2007 but the presence of two-stroke rickshaws on the roads is clear cut message that all the three departments EPD, Transport and Traffic were deliberately ignoring the champion of the noise pollution.
According to sources in EPD, noise level in residential areas should be around 55db while in commercial areas it should not exceed 75db but in Lahore, the noise level in Defence Housing Society, Model Town, Gulberg, newly build housing societies on the outskirts of Lahore is about 65db while in commercial areas and congested population areas noise level has reached an alarming level of around 85db to 95db.
Sources said noise levels of 85 to 95db in Chowk Yateem Khana, 80 to 91db at Shadman Chowk, 90db at Circular Road, 85db at Kalma Chowk, 86 to 89db at Azadi Chowk, 93db at General Post Office Chowk and 73 to 91db at the Railway Station have been recorded. Talking to Pakistan Today Assistant Manager Muhammad Rizwan of EPD said in 2009 the department had issued 19,298 fines chits to public transporters and had imposed fines worth Rs 50, 61, 500, in 2010 14,482 fine chits were issued and fines worth Rs22, 89,000 were imposed and in 2011 EPD had only issued 8,000 fine chits and imposed fines worth Rs 13, 83, 600. He said the reason of low fine chits and fine was that EPD employees were engaged in fighting dengue in Lahore. He further said EPD only issued fines to those public vehicles that used pressure horns or occasionally to two-stroke rickshaws.
Deputy Director and focal person of EPD Naseem ur Rehman told Pakistan Today that legally all two stroke rickshaws had been banned in Lahore since the end of 2007 and they were illegally plying on the roads without impunity. He said the policy makers allowed three wheeler motorcycle rickshaws to replace tongas to provide a swift and cheap transport facility to the citizens without realising the after effects. He said these three wheelers were responsible of over 60 percent noise and smoke pollution in the city. He said the chief justice of the apex court had taken a suo moto notice and Rickshaw Driver Union had requested the court to grant them time so that they could convert two-stroke rickshaws into four-stroke rickshaws but even after their assurance they did not convert their two-stroke rickshaws into four-stroke. He said there were only eight inspectors of EPD assigned different duties including measure the level of noise pollution in the city. He admitted that the EPD did not have enough staff members to deal with this issue.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Transport Department Additional Secretary Khalid Saleem said there were about 50,000 two-stroke rickshaws plying on the roads of the city and they were all running illegally. However, the CNG rickshaws were introduced as these vehicles were environmental friendly but the plan of converting rickshaws into CNG was not being materialised properly. He said the department was legally allowed only to check public transport but private vehicles were also a major source of noise pollution. He said the Transport Department was working with a Sweden-based private company to install equipment to check the fitness of the vehicles on scientific grounds and it would become operational within the period of one and half year. All Pakistan Transport Owners Federation Lahore Wing President Akhter Khan Niazi told Pakistan Today that due to shortage of CNG, vehicles plying on the road using LPG and diesel that was why the noise pollution level had increased.