Hornbill Unleashed

May 21, 2011

Noise pollution

Filed under: Alternatives — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:03 AM
Tags: , , ,

Sim Kwang Yang

WE are surrounded by a sea of discordant noise in our surrounding public sphere.

We are so used to the noise pollution all around us that we think nothing of it. Indeed, we accept it as a given fact of life. But there are mavericks like me who hate noise of any kind, so that at times I find the public places in Malaysia intolerable.

Take the ubiquitous coffee shop for instance. The space inside the coffee shop is the most polluted public utility, bombarded by all kinds of ambient noise all day long. It seems as if Malaysians have lost the ability to talk in whispers, or measured tones. The celebrated coffee shop sounds like a fish market at all hours of the day.

One of  the worst offenders against the public peace is the handphone user. In a public area, from the moment he or she switches on the mobile phone, the average Malaysian person turns into a noisy monster. He or she shouts and screams a private conversation into the instrument for the whole world to hear.

Another culprit bent on destroying our public peace is the truck or car driver who turns on his or her engine for half an hour, leaving the drone of his or her machine to drown out all possibilities of a private conversation within a quarter mile’s radius. The most amazing thing is that the offenders are not even aware or embarrassed that they have become a public nuisance to the peace of the social environment around them.

The number one public enemy of the tranquillity of our open public space is the ever present TV set, especially in our coffee shops.

No matter how much I hate it, I am compelled to listen to the Cantonese TV drama being broadcast from the neighbourhood coffee shop. Perhaps Malaysians are fearful of silence, and that is why they have to fill their public domain with all kinds of noise. Very often though, in so doing, people forget that noise pollution is an invasion of other people’s privacy.

We often forget that when we become noisy, we are robbing our neighbours of their rights of the enjoyment of their inner peace. Any person who respects other people’s privacy will take pains not to create a noisy environment in public.

But we are a loud nation, and everybody makes a tremendous amount of noise everywhere. In the end, it is as if we expect the negative impacts of various sources of noise pollution to cancel one another out. In the end, are we doomed to forever be a noisy country?

Years ago, I used to live in a quiet neighbourhood at Mile 6 of the Kuching-Serian Road. I enjoyed the peace and calm there, until one day, my next door neighbour decided to set up a workshop in his house. For years, I suffered from the cacophony of workmen and machines attacking metals, and one another, every day. I wanted to take legal action against them, but then it became easier to sell the house off when the opportunity arose.

I am quite sure it was against the law to set up a factory in the residential area around my old house. Unfortunately, Malaysian businessmen are generally not too concerned about adhering to the laws and regulations that govern their business activities.

Currently, I live in a sedate neighbourhood in an urban centre in Malaysia. With my advancing age, I treasure peace and quiet above all else: a sentiment that only the aged will understand. I evade all noisemakers except one.

My neighbourhood has seen a dramatic increase in the number of newborn babies. There are now new babies crying their lungs out in the houses behind me and in front of me. There are also more and more young children playing in the front yards of my neighbourhood with all kinds of toys. Once in a while, this din can be irritating.

But I remind myself that the noise made by the new lives is a sign of the miracle of our human existence. The crying of the young babies is part of the celebration of the vibrancy of my existence on this earth. It is to be celebrated instead of being taken as a source of resentment.

So nowadays, I enjoy hearing the orchestra of babies crying as music to my ears. If only I could think more kindly of other sources of noise.


  1. “Mavericks” like you should commit the worst crime possible, then you will have peace and quiet in jail, lock up in isolation – isn’t that what you want?

    Comment by anon — August 21, 2011 @ 7:00 PM | Reply

  2. A vehicle has an engine but the driver ( i.e. the sentence “his or her engine” ) does not have a mechanical engine unless you are referring to the colloquial “engine “ between their legs.

    Please improve yourr logic and your written English.

    Comment by anon — August 21, 2011 @ 6:58 PM | Reply

    • That “colloquial engine” making the piak-piak-piak noise is most upsetting after one has a stroke and can’t do the piak anymore. Perhaps one’s hands will provide satisfaction.

      Comment by anon — August 22, 2011 @ 12:12 PM | Reply

  3. It’s interesting to read what kinds of noise pollution you have in Malaysia — thanks for the post! The sad thing is that the louder it gets, the louder people have to talk in order to be heard, which only increases the volume level, so it becomes a vicious cycle.

    Very nice perspective at the end, that the crying of babies is a cause for celebration, not resentment. I’ll try to remember to remind myself of that next time I hear a squalling baby!

    Comment by Sarinne Fox — May 21, 2011 @ 11:42 PM | Reply

  4. No wonder you’re banned because you’ve banned. You know me.

    Comment by Not a great pretender — May 21, 2011 @ 6:26 PM | Reply

  5. In fact, smokers are much healthier than those non-smokers. Smoker doesn’t need plastic surgery or make up to cover their dead skin, wrinkle or whatsoever. Some people are born neutral. Some people choose to look even more prettier with make-up, even though they look good without it. You have to be naturally pretty to look good with makeup and not everyone has their natural advantages. Makeup makes someone ugly if they’re ugly. So, ask professional and don’t be Kiasu!!

    Comment by Not a great pretender — May 21, 2011 @ 6:12 PM | Reply


    A responsible government should start banning smoking in public places. The problem is we do not have a “responsible government”.

    In many western countries and also beginning in Japan and China which has a third of the world smokers (literally going up in smoke) smoking is banned in public places.

    China has a big health cost for smoking related diseases. http://youtu.be/Og84CuDsVjA

    One blogger mentioned about the noise pollution from the Dewan Rakyat and the DUN. You could say not only do we get vomit fro Putrid Jaya and the DUN(ny) but bad smell because of decaying corruption. A ban on those politicians responsible is in order but unlikely until the corrupt ones have been overthrown!

    Comment by Smokey — May 21, 2011 @ 5:41 PM | Reply

    • no need to wait for the govt to take action. just stop your husband and wife or family not to smoke or buy cigarette. at the end, people use their own money to buy cigarette.

      Comment by hari hari mabuk — May 21, 2011 @ 6:17 PM | Reply


    Agreed. SKY this “noise pollution” is part of our un-refined social make-up- we shout instead of having a good quiet conversation. The volume increases with the buzz of more people engaged in talking- so we shout to be heard!

    In fact it is more than 90% of the world. It gets worse as we get older because we lose our hearing and SHOUT as we enter our second childhood. Haha!

    However, the REAL noise pollution comes from places like the colonial UMNO Dewan Rakyat and the DUN and Nazi
    organisations like PIGKASA which vomits so much drivel after overfeeding on power and corruption!

    Still nothing compares to the coolness peace and tranquility of our long gone jungles thanks to 47 years of colonial plunder!

    Comment by Ayamkurus — May 21, 2011 @ 9:40 AM | Reply

  8. SKY,

    Noise pollution is still tolerable but not pollution from smokers.

    Go to any coffee shops in Kuching and you just can’t miss being registered as a second hand smoker.

    Go and challenge a smoker and you will need a cosmetic face surgery.

    When can we have smoking banned from public areas while those in the medical, enforcement,etc do not lead.

    There is a coffee shop next to the Medical Dept at Jln Kereta Api and the staffs frequenting the next door coffee shops are all chain smokers though they are on the front line on health issues.

    I remember last year the CM of a WM state was challenged openly in the media by his state’s top law enforcement brass when he wants to ban smoking in their offices.

    In Wisma Sarbekas, signs prohibiting smoking have no effect – customers openly smoking at their leisure/ignorance/innocence esp at the basement coffee shop. This does not include vendors at their premises at all levels.

    It just reinforced that our education system has failed and is not moving forward. Our children are not educated to respect others’ privacy or maybe the general public do not know the existence of Privacy Act – or do we have one in Malaysia? Or “Privacy” is not a word in their dictionary.

    I once watched a documentary on smoking in Indonesia. Millions died each year from lung cancer but as long as there are profits/revenues – from manufacturers to tax office – who cares? At least the MP in Malaysia do not smoke openly during the parliament sessions (only during live TV coverage??) which is unlike in Indonesia, the whole Parliament house is just a smoke house.

    Comment by CEL — May 21, 2011 @ 8:51 AM | Reply

    • Hahaha! No wonder you get heated debates!

      Comment by Smokey — May 21, 2011 @ 5:43 PM | Reply

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