Unsavory roads

By: Frank van Steenbergen and Anastasia Deligianni

A typical road found in many places: overflowing road drain, dust and pollution from traffic and food stalls on the pavement

See this, hear this: roads full of fumes and dust from three wheelers, cars, buses and trucks, the never-ending cacophony of honking traffic, roadside drains blocked by garbage, stagnant water breeding vermin, persons peeing against walls. This is the condition of so many urban roads – full of activity, noise, pollution, and dirt.

To make matters worse, these same roads attract roadside food stalls and vendors, with customers sitting right in the middle of these public hygiene disasters and food exposed to ambient filth. There must be ten thousands, if not hundred thousands of such unsavory urban roads.

The effect on health is not trivial. Those spending much time along noisy roads were found to have approximately 22 to 35% higher risk of hypertension, bad temperament, and irregular heartbeat[1]. Hearing loss and anxiety are significantly more common. Noise levels around certain streets can exceed deafening 100 decibel levels[2]. Exposure to air pollution and noise pollution concentrated around crowded urban roads – causes respiratory problems but also mental disorders. The stagnant water in roadside drains breeds dengue fever and malaria. All this amounts to millions of healthy life years lost annually.

It is something that one should not get used to and that with the force of city government should be reversed. There are many measures that can be easily enforced:  from banning hydraulic horns, checking car emissions, regulating roadside food business, maintaining urban road drains, regreening urban streets with roadside communities, to penalizing public urination. The major issue is that in many cities in spite of the overwhelming noise and pollution is that this hazard goes unnoticed and is accepted as a fact of life.

This blog is prepared as part of the work on the Green Roads Toolkit for the Asian Development Bank

[1] Sultana, A., Paul, A. K., Habiba, U. and Hossain, M. R. (2022). Assessment of Potential Health Risk Due to Traffic-Induced Sound Pollution: A Study in Khulna City, Bangladesh. European Journal of Environment and Public Health, 6(2), em0117. https://doi.org/10.21601/ejeph/12208

[2] Zia Ur Rahman Farooqi, Muhammad Salman Nasir, Abdul Nasir, Nukshab Zeeshan, Iqra Ayub, Haroon Rashid, M. Uzair Qamar, Abid Sarwar and M. Ahmad Akram (2017). Evaluation and analysis of traffic noise in different zones of Faisalabad – an industrial city of Pakistan.



Green Roads for Water  
Dirt pollution Green Roads noise  
October 24, 2023  
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