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The Noisy City

The Noisy City

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Published by noirthis

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Published by: noirthis on Oct 21, 2008
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06/16/2009

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16/10/2008 14:50Vietnam latest news - Thanh Nien DailyPage 1 of 3file:///Users/neilfitzgerald/Documents/Published%20Web%20Articles/Vietnam%20latest%20news%20-%20Thanh%20Nien%20Daily.html%20Noise
Finding a tranquil and quiet spot in bustlingHCMC is no easy taskE-mail to a friendPrint version
The noisy city
A WHO study says that soundpollution could impair our physicaland mental health, an alarmingconclusion whenapplied to HoChiMinh City.
Stepping outside most international airports brings you from a world of relative calm into your first direct encounter with a foreign environment.In the developed world, the main difference between the surreal quietinside the arrivals area and outside on the city's streets tends to beclimatic or architectural.However, leaving Tan Son Nhat Airport, the unseasoned visitor soonlearns of one of Ho Chi Minh City's most inhospitablefeatures – itsvolume.HCMC can be a painfully loud city.Making your way from the airport to your hotel, your eardrums will beassailed by a polyphonic chorus of horn blasts, jackhammers, buzz sawsand spluttering engines.Most people will be cocooned inside a taxi, but this provides slimprotection from the horns and the roar.Indeed, the taxi driver will be contributing plenty of his own tooting andbeeping to the cacophony.The Vietnamese seem to have different tolerance levels of noisecomparedto thosefrommoredeveloped countr ies, as anyone who has been woken by a home Karaoke machine here can testify to.Take vehicle horns.These serve different purposes in this city: each vehicle uses it as a wayto speed up their way through traffic; at crossroads, vehicles use them toannounce they are coming through; often times they are used toannounce one's presence to cars merging into the traffic flow.Then there is the gentle 10-decibel reminder that the lights have turnedgreen, for those bikes sat three meters past the line.Finally there is the typically Western usage, as a way to vent anger.Hotel reviews for the city mention not taking a street-facing room andbalconies are more often a source of headaches rather than tranquility.
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16/10/2008 14:50Vietnam latest news - Thanh Nien DailyPage 2 of 3file:///Users/neilfitzgerald/Documents/Published%20Web%20Articles/Vietnam%20latest%20news%20-%20Thanh%20Nien%20Daily.html%20Noise
Outdoor restaurants and bars with roof terraces suffer similarly fromintrusive sounds.It's not just traffic volumes and vehicle horns creating the din.Construction work is increasingly harder to avoid throughout the city, andunlike in countries with strict laws about environmental noise levels, workcan last long into the night and at weekends.Another problem comes when the city opens up its roads to heavy-goodsvehicles at night, which supersize the regular vehicle noise issues.For those living and working here, there is often an all-too close proximityto factory machines, street stalls, roadside motorbike mechanics andmarkets, the latter of which start receiving goods as early as 3 a.m.There are wider issues at stake here than simple annoyance.People are now waking up to the adverse affects that noise pollution canexert on the human body and mind.Noise pollution can have more serious consequences, as a study into‘community noise' conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in1992 showed.They found that community noise could lead to hearing impairment, ear discomfort, speech interference, sleep disturbance, increased stresslevels and can even affect cardiovascular health.Excessive noise levels can also affect mental health and behavior,causing changes in mood and increased aggression.These health effects, in turn, can lead to social problems, reducedproductivity, reduced performance in learning, and absenteeism in theworkplace and school.In 1999, the WHO produced a set of guidelines for community noiselooking at noise management, quality assurance plans, and the cost-efficiency of control actions.The aim of the guidelines was to protect populations from the adversehealth impacts of noise.The guidelines concluded that governments should consider theprotection of populations from community noise as an integral part of their policy for environmental protection.They also believe governments should consider implementing actionplans with short- and long-term objectives for reducing noise levels, aswell as supporting more research related to the health effects of noiseexposure.If Vietnam wishes to provide an atmosphere that encourages visitors toreturn and foreign workers to reside here longer, its government needs tobegin thinking about this.And if it wishes to protect the well-being of its own citizens, such noisemanagement schemes have to become an integral part of urban planningthroughout Vietnam.Currently there are only a few pockets of residential quietude in HCMC:Phu My Hung in District 7 and District 2's An Phu, both areas heavilypopulated by expats.One can even see signs there forbidding horn usage.Perhaps one day such signs will appear downtown around touristhotspots like Dong Khoi in HCMC, providing some much-needed relief for everyone's ears.

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