Asia Noise News

Indonesia in new bid to muffle noisy mosques

Indonesia in new bid to muffle noisy mosques

JAKARTA – Indonesia has set up a new team to reduce noise from mosques, an official said Thursday, as places of worship go into overdrive during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

There are approximately 800,000 mosques in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation but residents living nearby have long complained that their speakers are too loud.

Places of worship become particularly active during Ramadan, which this year runs from mid-June to mid-July, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and mosques blare out religious sermons even earlier than usual.

In a new attempt to tackle the issue, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is also head of a body grouping many of the country’s mosques, has formed a team to take samples of noise from mosque speakers across the country, his spokesman Husain Abdullah told AFP.

“The idea is for mosques to turn down the volume a little so that the sound can be heard only by residents in the immediate area,” he said, adding that the aim was to have a “more harmonious, melodious sound coming from mosques”.

He said that mosques also had to ensure that the sounds they produced did not overlap with noises from others nearby, saying there was often a “war of the loudspeakers” between places of worship in the same area which try to outdo each other by playing sermons loudly.

The new group, set up earlier this month, had collected many samples and would send a report to the vice president, who planned to sit down with Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body and Islamic organisations and discuss how to tackle the issue.

The new group would complement a previous initiative, which saw around 100 teams of technicians deployed across the country to help fine-tune mosque loudspeakers and give advice on how best to arrange speakers to reduce noise.

But Abdullah admitted regulating noisy mosques across the world’s biggest archipelago nation would be tough and called on the clerical body, the Indonesian Council of Ulema, to issue a fatwa on the issue.


Asia Noise News

Exposure to Hong Kong’s traffic noise declines over 15 years, even as city grows

Fewer people are now exposed to excessive levels of traffic noise than were a decade and a half ago, but the problem remains an issue in old urban districts, environmental officials say.

The Environmental Protection Department says it is in the process of updating a 15-year-old traffic noise pollution map for the city.

The latest data available on the departments website is from 2000, and shows at least 1.14 million people were exposed to traffic noise exceeding 70 decibels, which is the planning standard.

The [department] is in the course of reassessing the spatial distribution of traffic noise over the whole territory based on more recent traffic census data and the reassessment work is expected to be completed later this year, a spokesman said.

The department said preliminary results indicated the total number of people affected by traffic noise at levels higher than planning standards had been reduced, but old urban districts such as Kwun Tong and Yau Tsim Mong still remain the worst in terms of the number of people affected.

It added that prevention of noise problems through active planning processes and implementation of traffic noise abatement programmes, including the provision of noise barriers and low-noise road surfacing across the city, had helped lower the number.

In 2000, at least 37 per cent of people in Yau Tsim Mong were exposed to traffic noise higher than 70 decibels, as were more than a quarter of residents in Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po and Tsuen Wan.

The noise map on the current website factors in the year 2000s population of 6.6 million a figure that has since grown by nearly 10 per cent. Traffic flow is also likely to have changed significantly in that time.

Chinese University noise assessment expert Professor Lam Kin-che said noise mapping was an extremely expensive and difficult project to conduct, but was a credible way to trace noise pollution to its source. He said it was normal that such a study took a long time to update.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who chaired the Legislative Councils now defunct subcommittee on issues relating to air, noise and light pollution, welcomed the move.

The subcommittee had asked them to update this noise map before, she said, but added that more needed to be done as noise and light pollution were getting worse in certain areas, especially mixed commercial and residential districts.

Buildings are getting taller and there are fewer natural noise barriers. Noise pollution can seriously affect the quality of sleep and thus the health of residents.

A British study last month cited a link between traffic noise pollution and an increased risk of strokes and deaths, especially among the elderly. Experts in Hong Kong have called for health risks from noise pollution to be factored into environmental impact assessment reports.

But the department said a 2012 study it commissioned on 10,000 homes found no conclusive evidence that physiological responses due to noise exposure were associated with a long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.

Noise complaints have been dropping over the years. From 4,952 in 2010, they gradually declined to 3,859 last year. Complaints specifically about traffic noise have also dropped from 215 in 2010 to 88 last year.   This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Fewer exposed to traffic noise as city grows

Asia Noise News

Microsoft Azure is helping create a noise tracking app in China

Microsoft Azure is helping create a noise tracking app in China

Image Credit: Microsoft Research
For those of us who dwell in urban populated areas, the occurrence of noise congestion can sometimes become a mere backdrop in our living conditions, like a soundtrack to a movie. The longer we live in an area, the more adept we become at dealing with the noise. However, studies are showing that noise pollution ranks among the most pervasive forms of harm against a persons well being. An overexposure to the drudgery of noise pollution can manifest itself in the harmful deterioration of mental and physical well-being of residents, according to an article in the Environmental Health Perspectives (ehp).

Thanks in part to a rising socioeconomic bubble in China, an article in The Economist predicted back in 2014, that 70 percent of China’s population will be living in cities by 2030. That prediction assumes that roughly 1 billion people will be moving into highly condensed areas, and this shift will contribute to a few serious problems. Among the potential problems that may arise, an increase in noise pollution is one that a few researchers are aiming to track. As the rise in factories, construction projects, and vehicles continue in China the audible assault on residents could be detrimental.

Image Credit: Microsoft Research

Investigators in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, with funding from Microsoft Research Asia, would like to implement better tools for tracking noise pollution in real-time. Professor Yanmin Zhu is leading a team in the development of a project called NoiseSense. NoiseSense is a service designed to map urban noise by using crowdsourced noise measurements from smartphone users, according to Microsoft Research. At first glance, the sound capturing app and subsequent usage almost resembles a Waze-like implementation of research. According to Microsoft Research, “They envision a noise-mapping service that will allow anyone to query the noise level in any urban area in the world. More importantly, NoiseSense could give authorities the information needed to devise and implement effective noise abatement strategies.”

Image Credit: Microsoft Research
While the app and research methods are forward thinking and inventive, Professor Zhu realizes that is only half the equation in addressing the problem. Once users are capturing and measuring noise levels, Zhu, and his team will need supercomputer systems on standby ready to hash the mountains of input data. Enter Microsoft’s Azure platform. Zhu spent six months at Microsoft Research Asia as the recipient of a Young Faculty Program award. While at (MRA) Zhu became very familiar with Microsoft’s growing research into urban informatics. Using a grant he received from Microsoft, Zhu applied the free cloud computing power of Microsoft’s Azure platform to supplement his research into his noise sensing project. As for the status of Zhu’s noise mapping app, “They have developed a system prototype for a real-time, fine-grained noise-mapping service on Microsoft Azure, and they have created noise-measuring smartphone apps for both Windows Phone and Android operating systems,” according to Microsoft.

Image Credit: Microsoft Research
Zhu’s research is another forward thinking use of how cloud computing and big data can help create applications with far reaching real-world results. Microsoft is also aiding in the expansion of urban computing, with projects designed to improve many other aspects of city life, including urban transportation and air quality and energy consumption. These are the early days for this type implementation of research, but if Microsoft’s Azure platform can position itself accordingly, Azure could be a necessary tool for researchers moving forward.

Asia Noise News

Vietnam: HCM City residents claim noise pollution tortures them at home

HCM CITY (VNS) — Noise pollution from street eateries, public broadcasting speakers, and neighbourhood karaokes has made hundreds of HCM City residents feel as though they are being tortured in their homes.

While affected residents said they could not stand the noise, local authorities in the effected areas claim they have carried out proper measures.

Ngo Hai Thanh (not her real name), a resident in the city’s District 12, said she has lost sleep for two weeks because of the noise from customers at a street eatery set up on in front of her home.

“The period from 8pm to midnight is the peak time for the eatery. Noise from tens of customers becomes a nightmare,” said Thanh, adding that sounds made during cleaning before the caterers leave the site for home ruin her final attempts to sleep.

Thanh works in a lawyer’s office and insomnia reduces her productivity.

In Viet Nam, street food is often served with alcohol, and people drinking alcohol speak louder than normal. To cheer their drinking, Vietnamese have their own slogan, “1-2-3-dzo,” which is a noisy trademark for Vietnamese street eaters and a nightmare to the ears of those who are not sitting at the table drinking alcohol.

Bach (not her real name), an elderly woman who is a resident of District 1’s Tran Quang Khai Street, said noise from eateries on the street causes her illness to worsen. Bach is 80 years old and had heart surgery just weeks ago.

“The eateries stay open until 3:00 in the early morning. Some of these people vomit and urinate on my fence, as well,” she added.

Meanwhile, residents in other areas of the city feel that noise from public broadcasting speakers can become unendurable. Since reunification in 1975, authorities installed loud speakers in every community for broadcasting daily news twice a day, in the early morning and at the twilight.

The speakers made a meaningful contribution during the hard times when people could not afford a TV set, a radio or a daily printed newspaper.

“I really need deep sleep after each hard night’s shift, but they turn the loud speakers on at 5:20am every morning. This causes me to suffer from insomnia,” said Tran Thanh Tuan (not his real name), a resident in suburban Binh Chanh District.

Tuan added that the speaker noise scares his son, awakening him, also.

Residents in Tan Phu District complained that they are fed up with the noise from karaoke, which is quite popular in the district.

Meanwhile, officials in the areas said they have dealt with complaints for many years and issued fines to those making noise. Dang Hai Binh, deputy head of District 12’s natural resources and environment division, was quoted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper as saying his office had hired individual teams to measure noise levels and issue fines.

However, Binh admitted that customers in eateries obeyed rules only when officials came to check. Afterwards, the noise continues, he said.

Further, Le Ton Thanh, deputy director of HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, told the newspaper that monitoring noise pollution is the responsibility of ward authorities. The city authorities, in their licensing process, have regulated permitted noise levels.

Cao Chi Tam, a community head in Binh Chanh District, said loud speaker systems are required for the propaganda of the ‘new’ rural model meant for suburban and rural areas. He promised to reduce the street noise.

However, while officials spoke of restrictions applied to licensed karaoke services and authorised public speakers, no one has proposed a solution for noise from street eateries, which are found on almost every street in the city. — VNS