Saturday , July 13 2024

Hanoi apartment residents battle noise pollution

Dieu Linh, an apartment resident on Hanoi’s Vu Pham Ham Street, experiences constant noise from both the floor above and street traffic.

“It’s very loud when someone moves furniture or renovates upstairs,” she says.

The noise often worsens during holidays when upstairs residents play loud music and sing karaoke until late at night. It all disturbs Linh’s mother, who needs to sleep early due to her poor health.

But despite Linh’s complaints, neither building management nor security have intervened.

Having bought her second-floor apartment on installments a decade ago, Linh anticipated convenience and safety. However, she more often faces disturbances instead, with her mother often unable to sleep through the night and her child struggling to study due to the noise.

Linh’s family, after numerous complaints to building management, resorted to installing soundproof windows as a temporary fix.

“It’s very disturbing, especially with a sick person at home needing rest,” she said.

Dealing with noise is something apartment residents in Hanoi often have to face. Illustration photo by Freepik

Dealing with noise is something apartment residents in Hanoi often have to face. Illustration photo by Freepik

Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Minh, vice president of the Vietnam Audiology Association, highlights the severe health impacts of noise pollution, which are often overlooked. Long-term exposure can cause stress, headaches, anxiety, discomfort, panic attacks, fainting, nervous exhaustion, and gradual hearing loss, according to Minh.

Minh said it also affects children’s academic development, and can lead to high blood pressure and heart disorders.

Le Quynh Anh, living in a mini-apartment on Le Duan Street in the capital, has endured constant noise from neighbors since moving there two years ago.

“While I go to rest at 12 a.m., people [Anh’s neighbors] start gathering, eating, drinking, singing, and playing music, so I’m unable to sleep,” she explained.

Despite complaints to management, who issue private warnings to the noisy tenants, the quiet seldom lasts long.

Confronting the noisy neighbors directly has not yielded lasting results for Anh either.

“Some comply, but most don’t stay quiet for long,” she said.

A tenant once responded to Anh’s request to lower the volume with surprise and even reported Anh for her manners to building management.

The constant noise has led to Anh’s irritability and poor sleep, which affects her work and studies.

“I feel lethargic every morning and struggle to focus in class,” she stated.

Anh has repeatedly reported the issue, but the apartment management has not provided an effective solution. Renovating her room for better soundproofing is not feasible either due to both high costs and management restrictions.

In response to complaints similar to Linh’s and Anh’s, authorities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have issued directives to tackle noise pollution. Vietnam’s laws include warnings and fines for noise pollution, but enforcement often depends on reminders rather than legal action.

Le Tien, a residential building manager in Hanoi’s Hoang Mai district, admits that while regulations exist, enforcement relies primarily on friendly reminders. Stricter measures are only implemented in his building if the situation does not improve.

“If there are complaints about late-night noises, we first give one or two warnings,” he stated. “Then we cut off the main switch [if nothing changes].”

However, not all buildings enforce such strict measures. Lawyer Dao Thi Bich Lien from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association urges residents to protect themselves from noise pollution by taking proactive steps against it, starting with reminders and escalating to complaints or lawsuits if necessary.

Strategies employed by the South Korean authorities to address the challenge could be seen as good examples.

The Straits Times reports that in South Korea, where around 60% of the nation’s 50 million residents reside in multi-level apartments and villas, a legal mandate introduced in 2005 requires floors to be a minimum of 21 cm thick for sufficient sound insulation. Prior to this regulation, many buildings featured floors only 13.5 cm thick.

Additionally, in 2012, South Korea’s Ministry of Environment established the Floor Noise Management Centre to address complaints regarding loud neighbors. This center offers on-site advice and assists in assessing noise levels.

Nguyen Quoc Anh, deputy general director of a real estate platform, notes that 25% of Vietnam’s population live in apartments. More stringent solutions are therefore needed.

Otherwise, residents like Linh and Anh will continue to suffer.

“There might never be complete tranquility for my mother and child,” Linh lamented.

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