Dubai organisations taught ways to tackle noise pollution

Noise barriers to absorb and reduce noise from the city’s busy highways are among the solutions available. Those could enhance the quality of life for residents living along major highways such as Al Khail Road, where there is plenty of space between the road and the villas.

Pal Bite, a noise pollution expert, takes a reading of sound level on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // Noise pollution is becoming an issue of increasing interest to decision-makers in Dubai.

The good news for residents and local government is that the city has been developed in a way that allows for some noise-reduction measures to be introduced quickly, and at relatively low costs.

“In most places of the city you could do quite fast and cost-effective noise mitigation measures,” says Pal Bite, chief executive of the noise-solutions company Vibrocomp International, which has been operating in the emirate for the past year.

Noise barriers to absorb and reduce sound from the city’s busy highways are among the most practical solutions available.

Those could enhance the quality of life for residents living along major highways such as Al Khail Road, where there is plenty of space between the motorway and the villas that line it.

Solutions also exist for aircraft noise, which Mr Bite calls “one of the most complicated problems to solve”.

The variability of aircraft noise is a major reason as to why residents find it so disturbing.

“Even if the sound-level meter shows the same value of decibels for road traffic and air traffic, when you question residents they will feel much more disturbed by aircraft noise,” he says.

“Road traffic occurs every day, in the same period. It comes always from the same distance if you are a resident – always from the same direction. Air traffic is changing flight by flight. You cannot get used to aircraft noise.”

Vibrocomp is hosting a three-day training course on noise measurement, prediction and reduction for government officials in Dubai on October 20.

It will give 25 delegates basic knowledge about acoustics, noise measurements and noise mapping.

They will also be given a project to map a busy urban area in the emirate and design an action plan to reduce noise.

Mr Bite says he ultimately aims to show participants that, with the right approach, noise problems can be solved easily.

Based in Hungary, the company has worked for six years at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport, where complaints from the public dropped by 80 per cent in six years, he says.

Rather than discussing different individual measures piecemeal, it is important that decision-makers adopt a systematic approach to noise reductions, Mr Bite says.

This means first preparing a baseline assessment and noise model of a city.

“You have to determine which are the most disturbing noise sources in your city – which areas are the hot spots,” says Mr Bite.

“It is very important that this is determined not only based on the number of decibels of the noise, but also in combination with the number of residents affected.”

A baseline assessment helps to prioritise areas that need noise reduction measures and to model the effects of future development.

To prepare this, experts carry out noise measurements and gather data about car traffic, public transport, building activity and aircraft movements.

The tallness of buildings and their use, as well as the number of residents, are also factored in.

Other local variables such as noise absorption caused by humidity are also important, as noise propagates differently depending on many physical factors.

In conjunction with the University of Sharjah, Mr Bite and his company have been carrying out measurements to assess local factors that could affect noise modelling.

“Once an assessment is carried out successfully, a set of noise reduction mitigation options are drawn up, comprising an action plan,” he says.

Mr Bite says plans usually focus on a five or 10-year period.

“For a whole city, these are always complex measures to reduce noise so nobody should expect a one-day solution,” he says.

This approach is mandatory in the European Union, in which cities with populations larger than 250,000 were required to have noise maps and action plans by 2007 and 2008 respectively.

The requirements are now valid for cities with no fewer than 100,000 residents.