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ARTICLES Table of Contents   
Year : 2002  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 16  |  Page : 65-69
Environmental noise and community in Hong Kong

Environmental Protection Department, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong

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In order to find out the attitude of the community towards environmental noise, community surveys were conducted over the territory of Hong Kong through telephone sampling. Specific surveys were also carried out for areas previously affected by severe aircraft noise. Main observations on the community's response towards noise are that noise pollution was ranked the third among five selected social concerns (after "air pollution" and "security", and higher than "traffic jam" and "cleanliness"); about 60% of the respondents found the territory "noisy"; the most annoying noise source was "traffic noise"; 40% of people found the most annoying noise not tolerable and that most people affected by noise suffered from "distraction". Nonetheless, many did nothing (e.g. did not complain) against the noise and still preferred an open-window life style.

Keywords: Environmental noise, community, survey

How to cite this article:
Wong C L, Chau W, Wong L W. Environmental noise and community in Hong Kong. Noise Health 2002;4:65-9

How to cite this URL:
Wong C L, Chau W, Wong L W. Environmental noise and community in Hong Kong. Noise Health [serial online] 2002 [cited 2023 Nov 30];4:65-9. Available from: https://www.noiseandhealth.org/text.asp?2002/4/16/65/31826
Hong Kong is characterized by its dense and rapidly increasing population, dynamic development and redevelopment within a small land area. Many noise problems are due to past neglect of noise issues. Some major elevated roads are within few meters of household windows; industrial activities are adjacent to high-density residential buildings; construction works are very active to cope with the much needed infrastructural provisions; and before 1998 air transport was only possible with an airport virtually in the heart of the city. The warm and humid local climate makes noise mitigation by window insulation not desirable because expensive air-conditioning always has to be accompanied. Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (PD, 1990) also describe the acoustic insulation as the "last resort" because it will practically deprive the receiver of an "open-window" life style.

In 1986, the Environmental Protection Department in Hong Kong was established and the Noise Control Ordinance (NCO, 1988), the first piece of comprehensive legislation on the control of the environment noise, was enacted in 1988. These administrative and statutory arrangements have enabled Hong Kong to pre­empt, minimise and resolve the environmental noise problems through proactive participation in the planning and policy making processes, formulating and implementing abatement measures; and enforcing the Noise Control Ordinance. In the past decade while a lot of work had been done to tackle environmental noise problems, the economic growth still exerts a great pressure on the noise environment of Hong Kong. The population increased by 20% (now about seven million); the gross domestic product increased 3 folds (about HK$ 1,200 billion). In 2000, Hong Kong's port and airport were the busiest in the world in term of container and cargo throughput respectively (ISD, 2000). While there have been some surveys (SSRC, 1993; SSRC, 1995; SSRC, 1998) of community attitudes to broad environmental issues. The environmental noise as a major social concern has never been studied in details. It is of interest to find out the current attitude of community towards environmental noise and the effect of the noise. Therefore, the first territory-wide community noise survey was carried out between 1998 and 2000.

  Methodology Top

The prime objectives of the survey were (a) to survey scientifically the community impression on a broad range of existing noise sources; (b) to gauge the community attitude towards improving the noise environment; and (c) to identify factors relating to community impression and attitude towards noise.

Community surveys were carried over the whole territory. In areas of particular interest, which were areas previously affected by aircraft noise from the old airport, additional surveys were carried out.

Telephone interview method was used. To minimize sampling bias, the quota sampling method was used by telephone sampling and the numbers were randomly drawn from telephone directory by applying the "Plus/minus digit" method. The selection of respondent within the sampled household was done by taking the household member who has had a birthday most recently. 15 to 69 years old adults were invited to participate. 2000 successful interviews were carried out in the territory-wide survey carried out between May and June 1998. For detailed analysis the territory was further divided into three districts namely Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories. The sample was considered representative of the public's view of each district with a sampling error of +/- 4.1 %. Two supplementary surveys were carried out in areas previously affected by aircraft noise from the old airport which was moved in July 1998, one before and one after the move of the airport, with 400 successful interviews made for each.

  Results and observations Top

For the territory-wide survey the overall response rate was 38% (with 2000 successful interviews out of 5306 successful contacts). The respondents were interviewed on their top concerns [see [Figure - 1]]. It is observed that "Noise pollution (17%)" was ranked the third among 5 selected social concerns (after "Air pollution (36%)" and "security (18%)", and higher than "traffic jam (15%)" and "cleanliness (14%"). This is in-line with the findings of other community attitude surveys (SSRC, 1993; SSRC, 1995; SSRC, 1998) on broad environmental issues carried out in Hong Kong that air pollution was the most concerned and followed by noise and waste pollution.

The respondents were also requested to rate the environmental noise [see [Figure - 2]]. A 10-points scale was used in which "1" means "very quiet" and "10" means "very noisy". The 10 points scale was used based on the assumption that experience with decimal-based currency and other base-10 systems make respondents more cognitively familiar with this numeric scale (Fields et al., 1998). Evaluation score 9-10 is "very noise" and evaluation score 7-8 is "noisy".

Although noise was not the top concern, about 60% of the respondents found the territory "noisy". Moreover, over 60% of the respondents thought that more could be done by the Government to improve the environmental noise. It is interesting to note that the European Commission also reported that generally action by their Member States on environmental noise has had a lower priority than that taken to solve other problems such as air and water pollution despite the fact that opinion polls show that noise is considered one of the main causes of declining quality of life (EC, 1996).

Amongst all noise sources the most annoying one was believed to be "traffic noise (55%)", followed by construction noise (17%), aircraft noise (6%), neighbourhood noise (6%) and industrial noise (5%) [see [Figure - 3]]. In the past ten years the registered vehicles in Hong Kong increased from 390,000 to 600,000 (TD, 2000) while the total length of road is only some 1885 km. There is no doubt that in this metropolitan the most noticeable noise source for most citizens is the traffic noise. It has been estimated that about a million citizens (EPD, 2000) are now exposed to severe traffic noise level exceeding 70dB(A) [L10(1 hour)]. The survey result affirmed that traffic noise is still the public's major concern and more progress is demanded. During the last decade, much efforts have been made in preventing and minimizing new traffic problems through intervention in the planning of new traffic routes and residential developments. Some existing traffic noise problems due to insufficient attention in the past have also been addressed through implementation of noise abatement measures such as resurfacing highways with "quiet" materials and insulating schools with proper glazing.

The survey also revealed that 40% of people found the most annoying noise not tolerable. Most people affected by noise suffered from "distraction (58%)" followed by "Sleep Disturbance (21%) [see [Figure - 4]]. However, most (80%) did nothing (e.g. did not complain) against the noise and still kept the windows open. Nonetheless, it should be noted that it should be possible to sleep with a bedroom window slightly open (a reduction from outside to inside of 15 dB) (WHO, 1999). The observed passive behaviour of doing nothing when affected by noise is consistent with the findings of many overseas studies (e.g. study by S. Namba (Namba et al., 1991) also reported that most people in China, Japan and USA will put up with neighborhood noise). Study by T. Sato (Sato et al., 1991) also reported that about 80% of Sapporo citizen would do nothing when affected by neighbourhood noise. The causes of the low complaint rate have not been specifically investigated in this survey. The possible cause can be (a) fear of causing trouble; (b) the noise annoyance is in fact tolerable; and (c) do not know the complaint channel.

When asked to name any legislation on noise control, more than half (56%) of the respondents could not name any. 24% of the respondents named neighbourhood noise control, 21 % named construction noise control, and 10% named industrial/commercial noise control. Only 1 % could name vehicle burglar alarm noise control. It is clear that more publicity and education will be beneficial.

  Supplementary survey Top

Four hundred supplementary interviews were carried out in areas, including Kowloon City, Cha Kwo Ling and Chai Wan, which are populated districts previously affected by severe aircraft noise to various extent from the old airport. Surveys were carried out both before and after the move of the airport in July 1998. The Kowloon City area was under NEF 40-25, Chai Wan area under NEF 30-20 and Cha Kwo Ling areas under NEF 25-20. Before the move of airport respondents in Kowloon City, Chai Wan and Cha Kwo Ling found the aircraft noise most annoying are 40%, 17% and 12 % respectively. After the move of the airport respondents in Kowloon City, Chai Wan and Cha Kwo Ling found the aircraft noise most annoying drop to 3%, 1% and 1% respectively. A correlation between NEF and the percentage of respondents rating the air aircraft noise as the most annoying noise source was observed.

  Conclusion Top

The territory-wide community survey has outlined the major noise concerns of Hong Kong citizens and would be of good reference for continuing the development of new noise control strategy. Many preferred an open-window life style even though they are annoyed by environmental noise. It tells the one who needs to devise measures to tackle noise problem should only consider insulation of premises as the last resort. While noise problems are redressed and solutions implemented to combat existing and potential noise impact in Hong Kong, more location-specific type of surveys will help evaluate people's perception and demand of the noise environment as part of their quality of living and the effectiveness of the current noise planning criteria.

  Disclaimer Top

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or the policies of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region[14]

  References Top

1.Environmental Protection Department, EPD (2000) Environment Hong Kong 2000, Government of Hong Kong Special Administration Region, China, pp35  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.European Commission, EC (1996). Future Noise Policy - European Commission Green Paper pp1  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Fields J.M., de Jong R.G., Flindell I.H., Gjestland T., Job R.F.S., Kurra S., Schuemer-Kohrs A., Lercher P., Vallet M., Yano T. (1998). Recommendation for shared  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.annoyance questions in noise annoyance surveys. Noise Effects 1998 Congress Proceedings, pp 481-486  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Information Services Department (2000) Hong Kong: The Facts - The Port, Government of Hong Kong Special Administration Region, China  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Namba S., Kuwano S., Schick A., Florentine M., Zheng D.R. (1991). A cross-cultural study on noise problems: comparison of the results obtained in Japan, West Germany, the USA, China and Turkey. J. of Sound and Vibration 151(3), pp471-477  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Noise Control Ordinance, NCO (1988) Chapter 400, Laws of Hong Kong  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Planning Department, PD (1990) Environmental Guidelines, Hong Kong Planning Standards & Guidelines,Government of Hong Kong Special Administration Region, China. pp37  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Sato T., Hasebe M., Kaneyasu K., Saitoh S., Shimazaki H. (1991). Study on neighborhood noise control of apartment houses in Sapporo. J. of Sound and Vibration 151(3), pp529-534  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Social Science Research Centre, SSRC (1993) Survey of Community Attitudes to the Environment 1993, University of Hong Kong  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Social Science Research Centre, SSRC (1995) Survey of Community Attitudes to the Environment 1995, University of Hong Kong  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Social Science Research Centre, SSRC (1998) Survey of Community Attitudes to the Environment 1997-98, University of Hong Kong  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Transport Department, TD (2000) Annual Transport Digest 2000, Government of Hong Kong Special Administration Region, China, pp17  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.World Health Organization, WHO (1999) Guidelines for Community Noise, p.46  Back to cited text no. 14    

Correspondence Address:
C L Wong
Noise Management and Policy Group, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Environmental Protection Department, 33/F Revenue Tower, 5 Gloucester Road,Wan Chai, Hong Kong

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 12537843

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  [Figure - 1], [Figure - 2], [Figure - 3], [Figure - 4]

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