Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, July 22, 2016



City officials in Lagos, Nigeria are trying to accomplish the impossible. Their goal is the have the metropolis to be Noise Pollution Free by the year 2020. Specifically, they limit neighborhoods to 55 decibels by day and 45 at night. "It's a great menace." explains Adebola Shabi, the Lagos State EPA spokesperson. "Exceed the limits and we shut you down." He's not kidding. This year, 70 hymn-hollering churches, 20 salat-shouting mosques and over 100 beat-thumping nightclubs have been shuttered. Is your town next? Here's the top ten noisiest cities:

#10. Lagos. With 20 million residents packed into 1,000 square kilometers, the Nigerian capital is Africa's largest and most densely populated city. The 24/7 noise is perhaps a result of the city's diversity. Every evening, packed churches sing chorus after chorus. This gives way to booming nightclubs who cater to Lagos' teeming youths. At dawn, mosques fill the streets with loud calls to morning prayers.

#9. Madrid. Europe's entry on the list is surprising. While other capitals are noisier during the day, no one celebrates nighttime as much as the Madrilenians. The average adult bedtime is midnight. When others sleep, Castilians dance. City officials are currently cracking down on clubs, but it's difficult to corral a hundred partygoers.

#8. Buenos Aires. The sambas and soccer of Rio are boisterous, but South America's loudest city is Argentina's capital. The main difference is when not doing the tango and watching football, Porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) are working. They man the continent's largest port, construct cars and work in plentiful factories.

#7. Tokyo. With 36 million people, the world's largest metropolitan area faces a unique challenge: Earthquakes. To minimize damage, there are height restrictions for buildings. Up until 1963, it was only 100 feet. With better technology, it is 700 feet today. However, the result is the same. Rather than a dozen tall apartments, there are a hundred smaller ones. This means constant, noisy construction day and night.

#6. Karachi. While transport accounts for a mere 10% of Tokyo's noise pollution, it dominates matters in Pakistan's largest city. 90% to be exact. There are no subways in Karachi. Just five million vehicles on the road every day. Minibuses, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, water tankers, taxis...you name it. And every single one of them honks the horn constantly.

#5. Shanghai. If you just consider people within in the city limits, Shanghai is the biggest city on earth, clocking in at 24 million. While the usual culprits...transport, construction and nightclubs...are evident here, the coastal metropolis suffers from a unique problem: Firecrackers. In Shanghai, they are not just for New Years' celebrations. Folks light off thousands of them for good luck at a wedding, or the opening of a new restaurant, or when a child is born, or moving to a new house...or...BAM! BAM!

#4. New York City. They don't call it "The City That Never Sleeps" for nothing. With no restrictions on operating hours, bars and nightclubs never have to close! In addition to 8 million outspoken residents, 14 million tourists come here annually. They fly in on loud planes, hail taxis and shout at street vendors. Also unique in NYC: 8% of the noise pollution comes from CAR ALARMS.

#3, #2, #1. Calcutta, Delhi and Mumbai. Here's one list where India comes out on top. Unregulated growth has problems. It means the gigantic cranes never leave. Instead, they continually build apartments, factories and office buildings. Add in constant Hindu festivals, Bollywood music pumped through loudspeakers, screaming sidewalk vendors and the clank-clank of rickshaws...and you have the loudest nation on earth!

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