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What Covid-19 did to Malaysia

2020 has been a year full of ups and downs. One big thing that affected, in fact, is still affecting the whole world is undeniably the Covid-19 pandemic. No doubt that the pandemic has caused a lot of downhills in the development of many aspects, like economy and social, but there is one thing that have shown obvious positive sign during this situation: the environmental change.

Figure 1 A picture showing the clearer skies in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia (Photos: Filepic).

According to a Malaysian news report by Ming Teoh from The Star, the movement control order (MCO) that was carried out to tackle the Covid-19 spread in Malaysia has brought positive environmental impacts to the country (Teoh, 2020). People were amazed by the clean rivers, clear blue skies and the recovery of nature and wildlife. Of course, due to the MCO where a lot of human activities were restricted, the streets and urban roads have been very quiet as compared to the usual noise level. The improved noise quality resulted in lower noise pollution, which made the sounds of the fauna more apparent. But once everyone gets back to normal life when the MCO is lifted, how long can this positive environmental situation last? Will there be enough time for the environment to heal properly?

The Department of Environment (DOE), Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), Malaysia

The Department of Environment (DOE) from the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) of Malaysia have been very concerned about this issue all the while, specifically on the noise quality of the country. They have constantly been updating the guidelines to handle noise or vibration for various applications, for example vehicle-noise, ambient noise, or outdoor noise sources in the environment. In one of the published guidelines for environmental noise limits and control (2009), the DOE have specified a table showing the permissible sound levels for different applications, shown in Table 1 as one of the examples from the guidelines (Air & Noise, 2019). 

Table 1 An example of the permissible sound levels listed in the guidelines published by the DOE.

The permissible sound levels differ by the applications (i.e. use of land, human density) and the different times of the day, to ensure that the circumstances of various conditions are taken into account during the sound level measurements. For instance, the ambient noise limits are set such that it is an absolute limit based on the average level of noise (which should not be exceeded in a specified period), or in accordance with a relative limit based on the permitted increase in noise level with respect to the background level. It is mentioned that the limits should always be consistent with the environmental noise climate of the location. The rest of the noise limit schedules listed in the guidelines include those for land use, road traffic, railway/transit trains, construction, and maintenance, which are the main sources of outdoor noise in the country. 

Besides that, the report also covers guidelines on planning process, noise impact assessments, quantifying of noise disturbance, and guidance in environmental noise mitigation through planning and control. These are ideally applied in new and existing projects planning, in which the projects can cover anything that involves noise, as a potential concern or needed to be measured and assessed. This is a very imperative measure from the DOE to enforce noise control in the country to work on controlling the noise impact of the relevant applications, thus overcoming the noise pollution in Malaysia. With these actions being taken and followed, the goal to maintaining a better noise quality in the country can be achieved in near future.

Written by:

Khei Yinn Seow

Mechanical Engineer

Geonoise Malaysia

khei@geonoise.asia 

References:

Air & Noise, P. S. C. S., 2019. Guidelines for Environmental Noise Limits and Control (Third Edition), Putrajaya: Department of Environment Malaysia.

Teoh, M., 2020. Blue skies, less waste: Covid-19 and the MCO’s effects on the environment., s.l.: The Star.

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