The Key Takeaways of a UNEP report on Noise Pollution

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The Key Takeaways of a UNEP report on Noise Pollution

  • A February report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme on the environmental challenges posed by noise, wildfires and the disruption of biological rhythms of plants, animals and ecological cycles became controversial on account of the mention of a single city, Moradabad.

About the Report

  • The report - 'Frontiers 2022: Noise, Blazes and Mismatches' - draws attention to noise pollution and its long-term physical and mental health impacts
  • It also suggests measures that can be implemented to create positive and restorative soundscapes in urban areas.
  • It also puts together observations from global cities
  • Three cities in South Asia have filled the top three spots in the list - Bangladesh's Dhaka, Moradabad in India's Uttar Pradesh, and Pakistan's Islamabad.

About the controversy

  • The first chapter of the report compiles studies about noise levels in several cities around the world
  • It illustrates a subset of 61 cities and the range of dB (decibel) levels that have been measured.
  • Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Asansol and Moradabad are the five Indian cities mentioned in this list and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh was shown as having a dB range from 29 to 114.
  • At a maximum value of 114, it was the second-most-noisiest city in the list.
  • Moradabad had never been suggested as an unusually noisy city according to local officials
  • The author of that chapter later said that the confusion stemmed from errors in the bibliography.

Importance of measurements of noise

  • The latest 2018 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines established a health-protective recommendation for road traffic noise levels of 53 dB.
  • Estimates suggest that in Europe 22 million and 6.5 million people suffer from chronic noise annoyance and sleep disturbance, respectively.
  • Regular exposure to over 85 dB for an 8-hour day or longer can cause permanent hearing damage.
  • Long-term exposures, even at relatively lower noise levels that are common in urban areas, can also damage both physical and mental health
  • The elderly, pregnant women and shift workers are among those at risk of noise-induced sleep disturbance.
  • Noise-induced awakenings can trigger a range of physiological and psychological stress responses because sleep is necessary for hormonal regulation and cardiovascular functioning.
  • Traffic noise exposure is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders such as elevated blood pressure, arterial hypertension, coronary heart disease and diabetes.

Permissible Noise Limits as per CPCB:

  • Permissible noise levels in residential areas is 55 decibel during the day time and 45 decibel during the night.
  • In commercial areas, the permissible sound limit is 65 decibel during the day and 55 decibel during night.
  • In sensitive areas, it is 50 decibel during the day and 40 decibel at night.
  • Other than this, there are ‘silent zones’ that include areas that lie within 100 metres of schools, colleges, hospitals and courts.

India’s efforts to control noise pollution

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is mandated to track noise levels, set standards as well as ensure, via their State units, that sources of excessive noise are controlled.
  • The agency has a manual monitoring system where sensors are installed in major cities and few cities have the facility to track noise levels in real time.
  • The CPCB also measures noise levels before and after Diwali in major cities, to publicise the impact of firecrackers.


The harms related to Noise Pollution recently highlighted by the UNEP report are often ignored in national and international policies. It's high time to include this aspect in the policies framed to deal with different pollutions.Tree belts and use of electric vehicles can be great steps to reduce this menace.

Exams track

Prelims Take away

  • CPCB
  • Health effects of Noise Pollution
  • UNEP