Residents in Ho Chi Minh City have been struggling to shield themselves from the omnipresent, vexing sound-infested urban environs. The noise comes from anywhere at any time and turns intolerably exasperating in the late evening and into the wee hours. Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper readers voiced their annoyance at all kinds of noises, including those produced by mindless locals who sing karaoke or do “live performances” with their loudspeakers operating at full volume irrespective of what time it is. They tend to place the speakers in their yards or even face them toward next-door houses on the occasion of weddings, death anniversary parties or just any gathering. The unbearable noise also results from bike and truck engines and the local habit of honking horns perpetually. Many readers also complained about the maddening clamor from cafes, sidewalk pubs and shops in their neighborhood. Whenever complaints are voiced, the mindless people either refuse to heed them or even turn up their volume to add fuel to the fire. Several aggressive people have even triggered scuffles with their complainants. T., 40, who works in the legal profession, has been at wits’ end recently due to a snail snack shop located near her apartment in District 12. She finds the sound of glass clanking, drunkards’ yells or rows, and particularly the deafening music from inside the shop and travelling peddlers’ speakers enormously disturbing. The annoyance persists well beyond midnight, depriving her of sleep, T. lamented. Meanwhile, T.T.T., who resides in the outlying district of Binh Chanh, has been victimized by the unrelenting news and notices broadcast from the local administrative office’s speakers. The neighborhood, which is mostly made up of night-shift workers in desperate need of rest, is awakened at 5:20 am every morning to broadcasts at full volume and poor sound quality. “News is readily available on different mediums these days. We strongly urge only notices be read on the speakers,” he stressed. Many have reported their neighbors’ relentless noise making to local authorities, but inspections and fines are riddled with difficulty. “We have been inundated with complaints on the recurrent grievance, which we have been trying to tackle for ages. However, most noise makers turn down their volume or stop emitting noise altogether when inspection teams arrive, leaving them unable to gauge the noise pollution level properly,” Dang Hai Binh, deputy head of the District 12 Natural Resources and Environment Office, explained. As reports of such disruptive acts to local authorities tend to end up futile, many residents resign themselves to the earsplitting noise and devise ways to cope with it. Such “measures” include putting earplugs or stuffing cotton pads into their ears at bedtime, which can be irritating for many; putting on headphones constantly; shutting their glass doors and windows tight; having soundproof paints or other materials applied to their walls; or purchasing devices which produce white noise in the hope of partially drowning out the relentless noise outside. Many take up the last resort of leaving their “home-sweet-home” at certain times during the day or on weekends, or moving houses for some peace of mind, which is relatively hard to do in this bustling, overcrowded city. According to Nguyen Van Ca, deputy head of the 175 Military Hospital’s nervous system department, constant exposure to noise which exceeds allowed caps leaves sufferers prone to agitation, fatigue, headaches, nervous disorders, loss of sleep, heart diseases and even temporary or permanent deafness in extreme cases. As stipulated in Government Decree 179 regarding administrative fines on environmental breaches which was issued in 2013, owners of businesses which produce excessive noise shall be fined VND1-160 million (US$47-7,456). Their businesses will also be suspended from operation for up to one year, and be required to adopt measures to minimize their noise levels. Government Decree 167, released the same year, prescribed that individuals making loud noise which affects neighbors from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am the following day shall be subject to stern warnings or fines of VND100,000 ($5) to VND300,000 ($14).
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