Czech authorities tackle noise pollution

Noise pollution plagues millions of people across Europe. An effort to address the problem on European scale has now brought action here in the Czech Republic where an estimated 40 percent of big city dwellers are said to suffer from the problem.

Excessive noise is something that thousands of Czechs have grown accustomed to as they go about their daily business. A busy highway cutting through the city centre sends noise levels way over permitted health limits. After a while one ceases to notice the ever-present noise, but years of living in this environment can result in chronic health problems such as headaches, insomnia and lowered immunity. People living in the area have been complaining about it for years:

Woman: "I suffer a lot from it because it really is dreadfully noisy. And when you look in the cars often you see there's just the driver in each one."

Man: "We live up on the sixth floor so we are relatively better off but when I walk down the street it is terrible. They should get the cars out of the city centre because living here is awful."

Woman: "I have grown used to it by now so I don't notice it that much during the day but I must say that I am often kept awake at night by the metro."

There are currently no official statistics as to how many people suffer from excessive noise pollution in the Czech Republic - but that is about to change. In line with a broader European effort to tackle noise pollution, the Czech Health Ministry is working on a project that aims to map excessive noise pollution areas and subsequently find a solution for its inhabitants - be it glass barriers or triple-glazed windows. Michael Vit is the country's chief hygiene officer:

"The Czech Republic is now in the process of fulfilling EU requirements in creating what are called noise-pollution maps of the country. We have finished mapping noise levels along railway lines, and will not do the same for highways and airports. At the end of this process we should have a fair idea of how many people suffer from the problem and which are the worst affected areas. And then we will draft an action plan outlining appropriate noise reduction measures."

The noise pollution map of the Czech Republic should be finished by the end of next year and the ministry is expected to begin implementing its noise-reduction action plan in 2009. It should be financed from the state budget, possibly with the help of EU finds, and the people who are most likely to benefit from it first will be the inhabitants of big cities such as Prague, Ostrava and Brno.