As I write these words, I’m sitting at one of my favorite cafes, coffee in hand, shaking with rage.
What’s causing my frustration?
The constant noise pollution. I’m in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
You see, every couple of minutes, a bus, truck, car or scooter honks aggressively less than 20 meters from where I sit. The honking hits me like a ton of bricks, shaking me from an always brief moment of relaxation.
Later this evening when I go home, I’ll be waiting in nervous anticipation to see whether my neighbors begin karaoke at 10pm as they often do.
It doesn’t matter where I am in HCMC. The noise will follow me everywhere.
In fact, a recent trip to the Vietnamese countryside showed me that it’s noisy not just in HCMC, but throughout the nation. It doesn’t matter where you go in Vietnam. People will honk incessantly. They’ll sing karaoke until the early hours of the morning. People scream on the streets.
Noise is everywhere. I’ve had enough. So I’ve looked into some possible solutions to the noise pollution in Vietnam and shared them below.
The public health impact of noise pollution in Vietnam
According to a study conducted by the Institute of Occupational Health and the Environment, out of 52 million people working in Vietnam, between 10 and 15 million people are subjected to excessive noise while they’re working.
Here are some of their damning findings:
- Around 20% of working people are regularly exposed to noise pollution
- Noise levels on 12 of the major streets of Hanoi measured in well beyond safe levels
- Average noise levels at night in Hanoi well exceeded safe levels
- In HCMC, eight out of 14 places tested exceeded safe noise levels
- Officials quoted in the report said it’s far worse in industrial zones in the city
Anecdotally, I can tell you that the noise continues when you leave the big cities. Scooters honk continuously wherever you go.
Noise pollution is a serious matter. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, excessive noise is correlated with stress, sleep disturbances, anxiety and reduced cognitive performance. Continued exposure to noise pollution results in arterial hypertension, heart failure, myocardial infarction and stroke.
A report by the European Environmental Agency in 2014 asserted that noise pollution is a growing public health concern, suggesting it contributes to 10,000 deaths yearly in Europe.
I couldn’t find any similar statistics for Vietnam, but noise pollution must surely be resulting in many more deaths over time.
Noise pollution isn’t just a health issue. It also causes social disorders.
Noise pollution in Vietnam is a public health epidemic, yet it seems to be widely accepted.
The contributing factors to noise pollution in Vietnam
The main contributing factor to noise pollution in Vietnam is traffic.
There are approximately 7.5 million scooters in HCMC, Vietnam’s most densely populated city of 12 million people. Hanoi is estimated to have about 6 million scooters.
During rush hour, the streets become filled with the blaring honks of scooters.
Although there are regulations for honking, Vietnamese people have the habit of continuously and incessantly honking as they drive.
Noise also comes from karaoke, and this is something I encounter regularly. Karaoke is a huge part of modern Vietnamese life. It’s a strange musical tradition but has its charm, bringing people together in a very merry way.
The problem is that karaoke can be heard playing throughout the cities and towns until the earliest hours of the morning. I can’t for the life of me understand how neighbors put up with it. If you’ve got work the next morning, you’re guaranteed to miss out on a restful night of sleep.
Fashion shops play music at high volumes. In residential areas, speakers are turned up high for major events such as weddings and funerals.
The noise is everywhere. People have become used to it. There doesn’t seem to be any change in sight.
Are there potential solutions to noise pollution in Vietnam?
There may be potential solutions to the noise pollution in Vietnam.
Phùng Chí Sỹ, director of Environmental Technology Centre under the Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment, was cited by Vietnam News as saying that vehicles should be checked regularly to reduce noise pollution in the cities. Vehicles making too much noise should be equipped with a noise reduction system.
Sỹ also said public transport services should be improved to get more vehicles off the road.
Lê Huy Bá, an environmental expert, said extra attention needs to be paid to improve the management of building activities, with strict punishment imposed on violators.
He also indicated that under current regulations, noise polluters are liable for fines up to VNĐ160 million (US$7,000), with violators required to suspend operations for up to three months.
Hopefully these potential solutions are more regularly enforced. Perhaps could go even further and create fines for honking the horn.
What do you think? Have you been to Vietnam and experienced the noise pollution? What solutions do you propose? Let me know in the comments below.