The World Health Organization (WHO) considers environmental noise a pollutant and a threat to public health because of its harmful effects on human health. It is viewed as one of the most prevalent environmental challenges globally. Alongside the atmospheric emission of contaminants, noise can cause several adverse effects on a population’s health. In particular, traffic noise pollution is significant when considering population health, due to its closeness to the population. According to the complaint survey (received by EEAA) for 2014, for Egypt, the traffic noise pollution, as environmental pollution, is ranked third amongst the environmental pollution issues. It is considered a serious environmental issue because of its harmful effects on public health and citizens. This paper provides a brief inquiry of traffic pollution in Cairo. In particular, the paper aims to answer the question; what are the specific effects of traffic noise pollution on Cairo’s residents and the possible remedies?
The challenge with noise is not only that it is undesirable, but also that it adversely affects human well-being and health. Damaging effects of noise on human health consist of both non-auditory and auditory effects. Non-auditory effects of noise include performance effects (productivity, distraction, and task performance), psychological effects (irritability, fatigue, and headaches), physiological effects (defense and startle that rise of blood pressure), and annoyance (sense of irritation, where tolerances differ enormously and noise impulses are more irritating than a steady noise) (World Health Organization 31). Auditory effects comprise the physical effects of noise, such as tinnitus or threshold shift, hearing impairment, or hearing loss.
Egypt has lately experienced rising development of urban areas and mega-development projects in Cairo without prior planning. This is one of the outcomes of increased population, needing more industrial and commercial activities within residential areas, along with high traffic density caused by the increased number of vehicles. Alongside the atmospheric discharge of pollutants in Cairo, noise is increasingly creating a health problem for the inhabitants of Cairo as the number of cars increase annually.
Traffic noise has always been a significant important environmental challenge for the people living in Cairo. Over the years as the city developed and industrialized, the number of inhabitants has steadily increased and so has the number of vehicles. Additionally, as the city experienced an increase in prosperity and per capita income over the years, the number of vehicles also increased. Consequently, the resultant noise problems, as well as the effects on human health, have steadily increased over the years.
Currently, a huge number of vehicles continuously travel through the streets of Cairo Lorries with diesel engines poorly silenced for exhaust and engine noise are present in Cairo’s highways, night and day. Compared to other pollutants, the control of traffic noise in Cairo has been hampered by insufficient understanding of its effects on human health and the specific characteristics or nature of the noise pollution created by vehicles across the city.
Analysis of the Environmental Problem being tackled in light of the Field Work
Traffic noise pollution has become a common concern to all inhabitants of Cairo city. The traffic noise problem is multifaceted and is associated with the rise in transportation, industrialization and the higher number of vehicles that have poured into the already overcrowded streets (Abu-Allaban et al. 417). Measurements taken in Cairo city for traffic noise levels reveals that noise levels within the city are more than the standards set by international agencies to safeguard public welfare and health, particularly in residential areas.
This study aims to investigate the views of Cairo residents concerning traffic noise, and its impact on their daily lives. Qualitative research approach was selected for this study since qualitative methods are particularly useful in ascertaining the meaning that individuals give to events they experience. Qualitative research involves gathering and evaluating non-numerical data) to understand experiences, opinions, and concepts. In this case it was used to collect insights into the issue of traffic noise in Cairo.
In order to identify the views of Cairo’s residents about how traffic noise pollution, both noise levels and rate of occurrence, affect their daily lives, Likert scale questions were used to measure the respondents’ views and attitude concerning the issue. Likert scale is characteristically a point-based agreement scale used to assess respondents’ agreement with different statements. The choices vary from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” so the person carrying out the survey can get a holistic understanding of people’s opinions.
Due to the ongoing pandemic it was impossible to interview a large number of people. To carry out my survey I requested the manager at a local company to let me interview ten of his staff members and he consented. Respondents who took part in the survey included six males and five females. Eight statements concerning traffic noise were put forth to the participants in order to get their views on the subject. The statements were:
- Traffic noise usually causes you irritation or annoyance.
- There is link between traffic noise and hypertension.
- Traffic noise causes insomnia.
- Traffic noise pollutes the environment.
- Horns are the most significant source of traffic noise.
- Traffic noise represents the highest percentage of environmental noise which you are exposed to.
- The government has taken decisive steps over the years to curb traffic noise.
- Implementation of civic education and sensitization programs for the public is an effective way of reducing traffic noise pollution.
The data collected from the survey (responses) was aimed at establishing five important themes: How traffic noise affects each respondent; each respondent’s understanding about the dangers (effects on health) of traffic noise; each respondent’s attitude on the subject; how each respondent copes with the problem; and, each respondents emotional reaction (such as irritation) to traffic noise. These themes informed how the statements were formulated before the survey commenced; they helped to easily evaluate and interpret the information obtained from the respondents. For this survey, the respondents were given four response options; I don’t know, I don’t agree, I agree, and I strongly agree.
|I don’t know||I don’t agree||I agree||I strongly agree|
Based on the responses from the survey it clear that it is widely known by Cairo’s residents that traffic is a major environmental pollutant. Although the respondents and by extension people’s understanding of the emotional and health effects traffic noise is not well understood, there is a general consensus that it is generally detrimental to the wellbeing of society. Having established from the survey that traffic noise pollution is a matter of concern to Cairo’s residents, the following policies can help to mitigate the problem.
The government can erect as many noise barriers within the existing infrastructure; that is, along existing roads where possible. Noise barriers work by intersecting the path of sound waves. Functional and effective noise barriers characteristically lessen noise levels from 5 to 12 decibels, lessening the perceived intensity of traffic noise significantly. The kinds of noise barriers used include reflective panels and absorptive panels. They can be constructed from different materials such as timber (plywood sheets, planks), steel, concrete, and so on.
Selecting the most suitable noise barrier for a particular area depends on several factors, including visual and acoustic considerations, maintenance requirements, and safety requirements. Noise barriers have extra benefits as they can discourage trespassing and keep animals and people away from roads. Additionally, they can provide some security for cyclists, pedestrians and adjacent housing.
Another measure by the government is the introduction of a policy known as Additional Sound Emission Provisions (ASEP). This system periodically checks the intensities of sound emitted by vehicles to ensure that they fall within reasonable levels. ASEP are preventive requirements aimed at identifying vehicles that emit noise above reasonable levels and getting them off the roads (Department of Environment 12). Specifically, ASEPs aim to guarantee that the noise produced by a vehicle under normal driving situations does not considerably vary from when the vehicle is being tested. It helps to ensure that people maintain their cars well so that they do not produce excessive noise due to negligence.
Traffic noise pollution is amongst the most prevalent and growing environmental concerns in Cairo. Growing traffic issues has raised concerns among the Egyptians because it affects people in various ways. Traffic noise becoming a noteworthy environmental quality problem in Cairo and a cause of increasing annoyance within society, as shown by the replies from the respondents. If implemented in the most desirable manner, the different policy measures suggested have the potential to mitigate traffic noise pollution in Cairo and guarantee better health benefits in the coming years
Traffic noise pollution is amongst the most prevalent and growing environmental concerns in Cairo. Growing traffic issues has raised concerns among the Egyptians because it affects people in various ways. Traffic noise becoming a noteworthy environmental quality problem in Cairo and a cause of increasing annoyance within society, as shown by the replies from the respondents. If implemented in the most desirable manner, the different policy measures suggested have the potential to mitigate traffic noise pollution in Cairo and guarantee better health benefits in the coming years.
Abu-Allaban, Mahmoud, Douglas Lowenthal, Alan Gertler and Mahmoud Labib. “Sources of PM (10) and PM (2.5) in Cairo’s Ambient Air”, Environ Monit Assess, vol. 133, no. 1-3, 2007, pp. 417–25.
Department of Environment. Planning Guidelines for Environmental Noise Limits and Control. Malaysia: Department of the Environment, 2007, Web.
World Health Organization. The Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise: Quantification of Health Life Years lost in Europe. WHO, 2015. PDF file. Web.