Sounds pleasing, sounds threatening
It was a sensation! Dealing nostalgically with youth, the show proved
completely captivating. The young beauty, who played the lead, was a
winsome heroine. Sensitive and caring, she was completely devoted to the
household with a strong propensity for doing right. It was masterly,
except for some initial fears of an amateur.
A teacher participating as a member of the panel of judges, I just
wanted to see if she had been overacting. Our panel head, a celebrated
performer and musician, said, that she is deaf. And, even when things
are in total control, she innocently pricks her ears for words.
Sound may assault you off the cuff. Unlike air or water pollution,
threatening you with slow death typical of a cancerous attack, it may be
an ambush totally uncalled for.
Our unassuming heroine, living close to an unlicensed stone mine was
found deaf after a blast. The cruel constructor was fined for propelling
stones upon another's property, but the deadly blow on her future went
Being utterly careless and insensitive, we take sound for granted.
It's extremely emotional. Like sight, smell, taste and touch, its
sweetness upon some and nauseating on others.
Even a cassette player in full volume, unwanted high pitched remark
or bad mouth in hostility may cause harm. An undesirable frequency range
might thus damage listeners in some way.
One might say, no wonder, that noise is an integral part of our
day-to-day life. But that fierce dog barking next door, ever active
pensioner with his threatening lawn-mover over the lane and notoriously
screaming timber mill at a distance should not be our companions for a
We all agree that there must be some definite measures against such
nuisance. All night pirith chanting ceremonies, ringing of church bells
and early morning prayers in mosques give respective sectors an
One must remember that we are a multi-cultural society. The city
walls were pulled down with the open economy, and metropolitan area has
been sprawling. Green spaces have been ravaged so that urbanites
increasingly loosing touch with the nature.
These new urbanites must learn how to live in their new found land.
Capacity for recognising and accepting religious or social
characteristics differ, and the ground rules for living must be changed.
Religious liberty differs. To be tolerant towards others is the most
When you live in the city you tend to undergo a process of change.
You look for a change and if you wish to survive you must learn to love
it and open for new ideas.
Much faster and deeper attitudinal changes are the pre-requisites of
a harmonious society. Hence, all night religious observances must be
banned or curtailed to reduce sound pollution in metropolitan areas.
Finally, it is easy to neglect such forms of sound pollution, leaving
only speeding motorists as the only culprit. Obviously, aircrafts, cars,
motor cycles and industrial equipment add much more to the destruction.
But there are measures to reduce noise at various forms of silencing
Workers are provided with equipment to cover their ears when at work.
New laws suggesting noise limits are abundant. Silent zones near
hospitals, schools and court complexes have been in effect for a long
And, there are suggestions to reduce traffic density by way of mass
public transport systems. But those are aspects the public have long
being protesting. And, it is easy to suggest and make amendments as they
are not politically sensitive.
The line of argument is however to discourage religious observances
in cities, but to bring a sense of perspective to the debate on sound
It's not a waste to campaign against popular forms of sound
pollution, but there is a cause for concern right under our noses when
continuing our cultural observances in cities where many ethnic groups
share many things in common.
Winding up the debate, it's not easy to leave out our heroine
altogether. It offers a plot for another sensational tale. The culprits
are a sound system in high volume, reckless driver and set of
Sound Pollution: What is the solution ?
The issue of sound pollution, hitherto unnoticed or ignored by most
Sri Lankans, has carved a niche in public debate of late, with the
Central Environmental Authority (CEA) drawing up regulations to control
community noise pollution.
With the final version of the draft law scheduled to be submitted to
the Supreme Court in November, diverging views are expressed regarding
what has been declared as the main objective of the regulations:
controlling public address through loudspeakers.
Whatever the arguments for and against the regulations, it is an
established fact that sounds with high decibel levels are harmful not
only to the human ear, but also to the mental health of the public which
often manifests itself in the form of depression, hyper-tension, heart
disease or aggression.
According to local health authorities, more than 100 decibels are
heard a day from road traffic on any major road in Sri Lanka today. The
figure is alarming when compared with the sound level for a bedroom set
by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is less than 30 decibels.
In today's Daily News Debate we feature a moving account of a young
girl who partially lost her hearing as a result of the unbearable noises
produced by a quarry.
Though not as conspicuous or immediate as in her case, the damage
caused by incessant, amplified sounds transmitted from different sources
ranging from the lottery seller to your neighbour's cassette players to
loudspeakers at the temples or mosques to factories, is equally grave.
Should sounds of this nature be tolerated in the name of religion or
entertainment? If not, to what degree should they be regulated or
controlled ? Is the use of amplifiers truly necessary to practice one's
faith as claimed by some? Or must the Government take cognisance of the
multi-religious nature of our society when introducing laws of this
Have your say on the proposed regulations on sound pollution as we
take up the issue on Daily News Debate this month. Send in your
contributions (in 750-1,000 words) to 'Daily News Debate', Daily News,
Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, PO Box 1217, Colombo, or via
e-mail to [email protected] before October 22, 2007.
For the benefit of the country
It is great to have the feeling Sri Lanka, Paradise or Land like no
other as stated by Tourist Promotion is finally giving thought to
control pollution. Bold decisions for the benefit of the country and not
to please the masses is some encouraging news.
We the people who want the country to be a Paradise or a Land like no
other have to congratulate Minister of Environment, Chairman, Central
Environment Authority and the Government for having the courage to
implement the first dramatic action, banning of two stroke engines.
India, Bangladesh, Nepal had the courage to move them from the street
within a few days of implementation of the ban on two stroke engines.
The two strokes were converted to four strokes and instead of Patrol,
LNG / LPG a less polluting fuel is used in these countries.
They are smarter than the Legislature and people of Sri Lanka as they
had the guts to take two steps forward. We are yet to recognise LPG as a
less polluting fuel. Those who protested against this intelligent move
inclusive of the assembler of two strokes have now adjusted themselves
for the benefit of the Country over petty politics, profit and sacrifice
of others life.
Leaders of countries who took bold decisions for the benefit of the
country are heroes today. That is why Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, India,
China and even countries like Costa Rica the same size of Sri Lanka have
grown to be more prosperous than the Land like no other Sri Lanka. Costa
Rica gets 1.5 m Tourists a year, Sri Lanka 0.5 m and they are one of the
largest exporters of Microchips.
We must also take our hats off to the Minister of Environment and
Chairman CEA for bringing forward legislature to ban sound Pollution.
The sound level too should be controlled to less than 80 decibels at
the perimeter as stipulated for industry and be applicable to Religious
institutions, Musical Shows, Political meetings etc. Hope religious
groups who have no care for country but petty religious and ethnic
beliefs will not exert pressure on CEA to go soft on this legislation.
There should be legislature introduced to control the sound emitted
by vehicle engines and horns.
Indiscriminate use of horns is a standard practice in this country
and some silencers of vehicles do not silence but emit more noise than
they should. The British left the country demarcating Silence Zones. Now
Sri Lanka has hardly any silence zones. Where did they go? The Road
Authority and the Ministry concerned forgot to demarcate silence zones!!
Next come emissions. Industrial emission is measured at different
times by numerous authorities. Air quality of major cities is never
measured and public informed.
Most countries have air quality warnings. India too has a daily
report on air quality in major cities and drastic steps are being taken
to educate public and vehicle users on their responsibility for air
Engines are switched off at colour lights to save fuel and
environment. China banned the use of vehicles for a day in Beijing and
found a drastic improvement of air quality.
Can this country ever think of banning the movement of vehicles for
one day even on a holiday? This country was to start vehicle emission
measurement as a Joint Venture with private sector and there was a lot
of noise made about it. We are yet to see this happen.
Testing is not sufficient, the vehicles must be returned immediately
before they are released back to the road. Then the exercise will be a
success. Most petrol vehicles on the street have under performing
engines that pollute the air to a greater extent than a well tuned
This happens mostly in State vehicles that are a majority on the
road. State organisations do not care as they do not pay for fuel but
the tax paying public does. The same goes for diesel powered State
vehicles, SLTB, service vehicles.
It is a common sight to see State owned vehicles emitting belching
smoke from exhaust and they drive on day after day as they are owned and
operated by the State.
Service and Police vehicles are big polluters. Armored vehicles in
operations emit so much black, gray and white smoke, it makes me wonder
if they use smoke screens. No! These are badly tuned engines.
Most countries that are concerned about the damage caused by poor air
quality to living beings are also concerned by the damage caused by poor
air quality to their heritage sites, Monuments, Sanctuaries etc. India
has banned vehicles in the vicinity of Taj Mahal. Pakistan too is
following suit in most of their important places.
I was surprised. In Pakistan the able were made to walk about a
kilometer to the sites, and Electric Golf Carts transported the less
able. USA, most of Europe, Japan, Australia, vehicles have to be parked
miles away from sites.
Authorities offer Echo Friendly, Electric, LNG / LPG operated
vehicles for transport of visitors through the sites with the driver or
guide giving a live commentary about the visiting site.
When will land like no other get to this level. May it be
Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa or any other heritage site or Yala and other
wild life parks. Bleaching busses overloaded with people are allowed in
with loud music and singing.
They even took the horn within the wild life parks. It is high time
those who love the Land like no other look into these aspects to enable
the Land like no other to remain a Land like no other instead of being
categorised as a polluted Land like no other.
It is time the Ministry of Environment and CEA study implement what
other countries have done to prevent pollution. India has taken
pollution serious and is converting Public Transport, Taxis to LNG / LPG
and converting railway to electric. In the West inclusive of Australia
vehicles are being converted from petrol / diesel to LNG / LPG.
There are two carmakers in Australia who make LNG / LPG driven
vehicles as a first step. Land like no other is yet to see LPG being
recognised as a Less Polluting Fuel.
There is not a single bus operated by LPG in the public or private
sector. India and Bangladesh are introducing LNG powered busses. A
company from Sri Lanka is converting vehicles to LPG in Australia.
If this country is to remain a Land like no other or Paradise, the
leaders have to take bold decisions for the benefit of the country and
all living beings within, for them to survive in politics.
Take the leaders of Singapore, Malaysia, India and China as example
who have the vision, the country first and be in power than be in power
and to hell with the country.
Some political parties use cloth for decoration but some use
Polythene? That is why the Land like no other is still a Third World
while others have reached the developing world.
Minister of Environment, Chairman CEA keep up the good work to
benefit the Country, do not be misled by soft arguments but hard words.
Stand firm on values. Work for benefit of People and Animals who are to
live in the world. Not for the benefit of symbols but for all living
beings of Sri Lanka and generations to come.
The writer is Chairman, International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka
Enactment to ban loud speakers welcome
The sound that emanates from loud speakers in Buddhist temples and in
street corners loudest as ever is certainly at the expense of a large
minority. The majority are irritated, disturbed and annoyed at the
nuisance these loud speakers cause.
The mosques, with their early morning call to prayer did not exist in
the times of the prophet. Its usage, though initially an advantage, has
now lost its relevance. It is the same with other purportedly religious
The modern day provides various options when practicing religion,
without intruding into others lives. The radio, TV, CD, DVD and other
forms of electronic media. It provides access to any religion at any
time. Why then loud speakers? Early morning pirith and bana is available
on radio for well over 40 years.
It is a statement that reverberates very clearly that the law can be
broken in the name of religion. I cannot single out Buddhists, Muslims
or Christians of various denominations. During the times of feasts and
other merrymaking and observances using loud speakers is not correct
without the consent of the public as do the Hindus, but to a lesser
Using loudspeakers in the name of religion therefore becomes a common
factor, most significant being that the majority appears to impose their
will on the minorities, as was done similarly with language some time
back. The result of which is now evident. Can we not learn from our
If the government departments propagate the use of loud speakers for
their functions, it then becomes legal de facto. Offending sounds come
from various forms in addition to religious use, lottery vendors, loud
radio use by neighbours, vehicles and musical shows and of course
industrial noises from factories.
It is basically their levels that are offensive and a nuisance. Laws
to prosecute such nuisances are available, though their enforcement is
It must also be noted that all these sounds especially loud speakers
are offensive not only to humans but to the avifauna as well. I would
invite scientific confirmation of this.
Indiscriminate use of loud speakers and proliferation of sound
without concern to others is very uncivilised, besides being illegal.
I would welcome any enactments that ban the use of loud speakers, and
I exhort the Government to first show intent by enforcing the already
existing nuisance laws.