This section aims to provide detailed information on the problem of noise and how noise pollution is controlled in Hong Kong. An overview is given below for the quick reference of the audience. Detailed information is organized into various categories, namely, Problems & Solutions, Public Consultation, Data & Statistics, Study Reports, Guidelines & References, Innovative Noise Mitigation Designs and Measures, Educational Package on Environmental Noise, Construction Noise Permit in Force, Noise Type Approved Vehicle Data, Quality Powered Mechanical Equipment (QPME) and Help Corner which can be accessed through the menu.
AN OVERVIEW ON NOISE POLLUTION AND CONTROL IN HONG KONG
The Problem of Noise
Different people may respond differently to the same level of noise. But above certain levels, noise can affect everybody. It can lead to hearing loss and mental stress and irritation. It can also interfere with daily activities such as doing homework, watching television and talking on the telephone.
Similar to other major metropolitan cities, noise is an issue in Hong Kong. More than one million people (please see the "Spatial Distribution of Traffic Noise Problem in Hong Kong (Graphical version only)" for details) are affected by excess traffic noise alone, making it the biggest noise problem in the SAR. Poor planning in the past and cramped development have resulted in such thorny problems such as highways running just outside people's living rooms. The growth in the economy during the 1980s and 90s, which brought more construction and more traffic, has also contributed to the noise problem. People are also exposed to different levels of pounding, roaring or shrill noises from construction work, ventilation systems, intruder alarm systems and their neighbours.
Outlook for Noise Pollution
The EPD has rung up many successes in its efforts to bring down noise levels. Most forms of environmental noise are under statutory control. The control covers construction activities, commercial and industrial activities and neighbourhood-type noise as well as requiring motor vehicles to meet specific noise emission standards for registration in Hong Kong. Through proactive participation in the planning and policy making processes and implementation of noise abatement measures, we have significantly, curbed growing of the number of people exposed to excess traffic noise even though the population has increased by one million and traffic volume has doubled since the late 1980s. However, traffic is continuing to grow and unless further restraints are placed on traffic noise, the population exposed to excessive noise would continue to grow rapidly.
CONTROLLING NOISE POLLUTION
Noise is a common subject of complaint in Hong Kong and reducing it has been a priority for the EPD since the department was established in 1986. Controls are imposed on construction noise, noise from commercial and industrial premises and neighbourhood noise, and much effort has gone into preventing noise. Our cramped living conditions, poor planning of the past and economic activity mean Hong Kong remains a fairly noisy city, but efforts to reduce the problem are continuing.
Traffic noise is a major concern because it affects more than one million people (please see the "Spatial Distribution of Traffic Noise Problem in Hong Kong (Graphical version only)" for details). The EPD is addressing two sources of traffic noise. One is from new roads, the other from existing roads. More than 80 kilometres of barriers and screens have been erected along new roads since 1990, benefiting some 300,000 people. Low-noise surfaces are also commonly used. The EPD also advises on the design of new roads and buildings to reduce noise. As a last resort, insulation may be provided.
Noise from existing roads is more difficult to tackle. Some 600 roads generate noise greater than 70 decibels. Barrier could be applied to some 40 identified road sections for implementation under the Public Works Programme. Other solutions are being investigated for the remainder, such as traffic management and alternatives to motor vehicles.
Construction noise was a major problem when the EPD was set up in 1986. Pile-drivers operated 12 hours a day in urban areas, affecting one in 12 people. The Noise Control Ordinance came into effect in 1989 and included controls on construction noise that have been progressively tightened. Piling is limited to three to five hours a day in built-up areas, quieter piling equipment must be used, and other forms of noisy activities are controlled.
However, construction noise remains a problem. The EPD is looking into the issue and is also working to encourage greater compliance among builders, who tend to treat fines for noise offences as a cost of doing business.
Aircraft and Other Noise
Aircraft noise is controlled by the Civil Aviation Department, which monitors the noise and requires quieter practices such as noise abatement procedures during take-off. The problem of aircraft noise was greatly reduced when the airport moved from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok in 1998. The Kai Tak airport was surrounded by congested residential development and 380,000 people were affected by the noise. Only about 200 people are affected by noise from Chek Lap Kok.
Factories and commercial operators, such as restaurants, generate noise, often from their ventilation systems. Their noise is controlled under the Noise Control Ordinance, as is neighbourhood noise, noise from intruder alarms and noise from newly-registered motor vehicles, which are required to meet standards in line with those of Europe and Japan.
Planning Against Noise
Prevention is the best cure as far as noise is concerned. If homes are not built next to busy roads, then fewer people will be affected by noise. The Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines have addressed noise since 1985 and standards have been progressively tightened. The EPD also gives input in the early stages of planning for new towns and developments, through the environmental impact assessment process. Tung Chung New Town, for instance, was designed with EPD involvement so residents would not be exposed to excessive aircraft or road noise.
In the bigger picture, the EPD also gives input to major policies such as future transport plans and the overall future development of Hong Kong. In these instances, the department assesses the impact of the different options and supports options that have the least environmental impacts.
For more information on how noise pollution is controlled, please refer to Problems & Solutions.
What You Can Do
Ensure you don't generate excessive noise. Be considerate of your neighbours - don't turn your TV or Hifi too loud, shut your doors and windows if you are engaging in noisy activities and don't pursue these activities at night . If you wish to make a noise complaint, you can call either the EPD or the police. The police are responsible for handling complaints on neighbourhood noise, noise from intruder alarms and construction noise. The EPD has four Regional Offices which handle complaint on noise from commercial and industrial premises, and construction sites.
Trades and industries can help to reduce noise pollution from their operation through proper selection and maintenance of their equipment and ensuring compliance with legal requirements. Noise problem can also be prevented through better planning such as building design in residential development. Reference can be made to Guidelines & References for a full account of compliance guides and good practices.