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Asia Noise News

Noise nuisance from neighbours, Punggol, Singapore

Singapore: Over the past two years, one Housing Board block in Punggol has seen heavy market activity. Six households on the same floor moved out – all because of one woman.

Dubbed the “neighbour from hell”, she is accused of splashing oil at doors, playing loud music and stomping on the floor.

One neighbour even claimed she had left a bloody pig’s ear on a shoe rack.

Multiple police reports were made. Feeling helpless when told by the authorities that what she did was not an arrestable offence, six families to date have sold their flats, with the latest one moving out last November.

New families who moved in said they have also made reports to the authorities.

The second resident in the Punggol Central HDB block to move out due to the neighbour did so with her husband and two-year-old daughter in February last year, five years after moving into the Build-To-Order block, which has a mix of two-, three-and four-room flats.

She told The Sunday Times that it was “so stressful” that she even appealed to HDB to let her sell her flat before completing the five-year minimum occupation period. Her appeal was rejected.

“I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I would go home after work to find some kind of liquid splashed on my door. One day it was used cooking oil, another day it was porridge. The worst was when I saw a pig’s ear on my shoe rack,” she said.

“It was my first flat and I felt very suay (unlucky). I sold my flat to another family. I felt sorry for them but everyone wants to escape.”

The neighbour in question is a 51-year-old housewife.

In 2013, the divorcee and her son, who is waiting to enter university, moved into their two-room flat.

Interviews with her former and current neighbours indicate that the trouble began the year after.

One neighbour showed a folder of at least 17 police reports filed, as well as complaints to HDB.

A police spokesman said: “As the reports were for non-arrestable offences such as intentional harassment, noise pollution and mischief, the housewife’s neighbours were advised to lodge a magistrate’s complaint. All involved parties were also advised to keep the peace.”

A magistrate’s complaint is filed when one wishes to start a private prosecution against someone he believes has committed a criminal offence against him. The neighbour who filed the complaint, after an earlier attempt at mediation failed, lives in the flat above the woman.

He claims she intimidated him with “a large stone” when she confronted him about noise from his flat last month.

The accusations were disputed by the housewife who said he had provoked her by dropping metal balls on his floor which she could hear.

“So, I took a pebble and went up to bounce it outside his unit’s corridor as I was angry. It disturbed my sleep and it was not the first time. I also called the police,” she said.

Speaking from her home for three hours on Thursday, the housewife was calm and articulate as she addressed her neighbours’ accusations.

“If ex-owners said they sold their flats because of me, I tell you, I am not that great. I, one person, cannot do all this. I have footage of their nuisance acts and they are no bunch of sweet peas,” she said and accused her neighbours of ganging up against her.

One ex-neighbour who wanted to be known only as Lee, said the neighbours had held a few meetings as they experienced the same issues with the housewife.

noisy neighbour Punggol Singapore
noisy neighbour Punggol Singapore

The disputes started with the previous owner of the unit facing hers, recalled the housewife.

She said the couple threw cigarette ashes into the gap between her wooden door and grille gate. So she installed three closed-circuit television cameras outside her flat.

In the past five years, the woman added, she has filed multiple complaints with different agencies, including the National Environment Agency, about her neighbours.

When told that her neighbours had complained of loud music and banging doors coming from her flat, the housewife said she has to sleep with her radio on each day “to drown out the noise” from upstairs.

“My conscience is clear.”

Last year, the couple opposite the housewife sold their home to a 34-year-old single mother.

On her first day home, she found police at her door.

The administrative assistant who declined to be named said: “She had called the police to complain that my cousin was making noise and smoking at the corridor.

“A month later, she poured cooking oil outside my flat on three occasions.” — The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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Asia Noise News

Living with noise pollution: Serangoon, Bukit Timah and Clementi among the noisiest neighbourhoods in Singapore

Living with noise pollution: Serangoon, Bukit Timah and Clementi among the noisiest neighbourhoods in Singapore

For the past three decades, Mr K.C. Tang, 72, and his wife have been communicating by shouting at each other.

Even then, the couple can barely make out what each other is saying, due to the unceasing cacophony of horns, sirens and revving engines from the Central Expressway (CTE) around 40m away from their three-room flat at Block 115, Potong Pasir Avenue 1.

Said Mr Tang, a retiree, with a sigh: “We have grown used to this.”

Over in Yew Tee and Choa Chu Kang, where MRT tracks are within spitting distance from some Housing Board blocks, residents say that they, too, have become accustomed to living with noise.

Choa Chu Kang resident Nadia Begum, 29, whose home is some 30m away from a stretch of MRT track where a train rattles past every few minutes, said: “Closing all the windows is not sufficient. We have to use pillows over our heads to muffle the noises at night.”

Mr Tang and Ms Begum are among the tens of thousands living next to busy roads, MRT tracks, construction sites and shopping malls around Singapore, who are coping with din just outside their homes.

A new study from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that Singapore’s average outdoor sound level throughout the day is 69.4 decibels, which is equivalent to the noise made by a vacuum cleaner.

This exceeds the National Environmental Agency’s recommendation of no more than 67 decibels averaged over an hour, and is a whisker shy of the World Health Organisation threshold of 70 decibels a day. Consistent exposure to that level can cause hearing impairment.

The study – led by NUS graduate student Diong Huey Ting and Professor William Hal Martin, who heads the university’s masters in audiology programme – took 18,768 outdoor sound measurements between last December and February to determine how noisy Singapore is. Worryingly, around 27 per cent of the gathered data exceeded 70 decibels, said Ms Diong.

The study also identified the noisiest places in Singapore. Serangoon tops the list of planning zones, with an average of 73.1 decibels from more than 100 noise readings.

Said Ms Diong, 27: “In densely populated Singapore, common amenities like shopping malls, hawker centres and playgrounds all contribute to community noise, on top of that created by traffic.”

Noise pollution is inevitable in big bustling cities around the world and Singapore is experiencing it too.

While there are no comparative studies, anecdotally, the city has become noisier over the years as it continues to develop – with more expressways, longer MRT lines and the cycle of construction and demolition playing out over and over again.

This is on top of new trends like the growing popularity of integrated mixed-use developments, with retail spaces, offices, transport hubs and homes in the same complex.

This worries Mr Spencer Tan, 30, of noise monitoring firm Dropnoise. “Even those who live on the higher floors will not be spared since sound travels upwards.”

To try to mitigate against noise pollution, the Government has put in place several measures, including tighter enforcement of construction sites and urban planning regulations. Several solutions are still undergoing trials and may be rolled out in the coming years.

But some are concerned that these measures may not be able to keep pace with a growing nation.

Mr Tang’s home became noisier when the CTE was widened from a three-lane to a four-lane dual carriageway in 2012 to accommodate more traffic. Said Mr Tang in Mandarin: “We complained then, but nothing much can be done about it since it is impossible to fight progress.”

Dropnoise, which produces noise reports for residents and condominium managements, has seen business boom since it started the monitoring service last year.

Mr Tan gets more than three inquiries from frustrated residents to attend to every week. Its reports can be used in court action against noisy neighbours, or submitted to regulatory bodies as proof of noise pollution.

Within Mr Tang’s home, for example, Dropnoise, using a sensitive sound meter, recorded an average of 66.6 decibels over a five- minute period.

“This means that the resident is hearing a constant background noise equivalent to a loud conversation. He will have to speak louder if he wants to be heard,” said Mr Tan.

Since the problem of noise pollution is here to stay, doctors said residents should be more aware of ways to protect their hearing. These include the use of hearing protection, such as ear plugs and ear muffs, as a temporary solution, said the head of Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH’s) otolaryngology department, Dr Barrie Tan.

Dr Low Wong Kein, senior ear specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said besides hearing impairment, constant exposure to loud noises can cause health problems such as hypertension and heart disease.

Psychologist Nishta Geetha Thevaraja from the SGH department of psychiatry said personal and work relationships can be affected by irritability and anger issues brought about by noise pollution. Those who have become accustomed to loud noises are “usually unaware of these implicit effects noise pollution has on their lives”, she added.


NO SOUND OF SILENCE

World Health Organisation guidelines say 70 decibels is the sound level which – if someone is exposed to it consistently for a full day – can lead to hearing impairment. Here’s how Singapore and other cities stack up.

SINGAPORE

The mean noise level is 69.4 decibels, according to an NUS study. It is averaged from more than 18,000 sound readings taken over a 2½-month period.

NEW YORK CITY

Noise generally hovers around 70 decibels on the streets of Manhattan, according to measurements taken by magazine NYMag.

TAINAN

A 2009 traffic noise study conducted in Taiwan’s Tainan city in 2009 found that 90 per cent of the population was exposed to more than an average of 62 decibels during peak hours.

HONG KONG

In one of Asia’s busiest financial hubs, 13.6 per cent of the population is exposed to a noise level of above 70 decibels, according to the government’s Environmental Protection Department.

SHANGHAI

Road noise on Shanghai’s streets hits an average of 71.9 decibels during the day and drops to 65.9 decibels at night, according to newspaper Shanghai Daily.

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