Barcelona to install sound level monitors to fight noise pollution | Spain
The streets and squares of Barcelona have long been home to a noisy cacophony of restaurant terraces, buskers and throngs of residents and tourists. The city is now on a mission to determine how noisy these spaces can be, with the installation of sound level monitors in 11 zones.
“It is an absolute priority,” said Eloi Badia, Barcelona city councilor for the climate emergency and ecological transition. “Noise pollution – with all its sleep disturbances, pathologies and stress – is one of the most important public health problems we have in the city, second only to air pollution.”
A recent study by Barcelona’s public health agency found that around 57% of the city’s residents are regularly exposed to noise levels above those recommended by the World Health Organization. This figure dwarfs estimates in Europe, where one in five people are exposed to harmful levels of noise pollution.
In the coming days, sound level meters should be installed in all areas where residents regularly complain of noise. From there, leaders will start listening. Acceptable decibel limits vary from area to area, depending on factors such as the width of the street or the distribution of buildings.
“If the limits are exceeded for two consecutive weekends, the area will be confirmed as acoustically stressed,” Badia said. “In this case, the district will need to present an action plan to work on with neighbors, restaurants and others to try to mitigate the damage that is caused.”
Potential actions could include limiting outdoor dining times or reducing the hours local stores sell alcohol. Residents whose areas are deemed “acoustically stressed” will also be able to access grants to help insulate windows and soundproof their homes.
The initiative builds on a network of sound level meters already in place in the city, which had enabled authorities to take sporadic measures to deal with soaring noise levels, such as cleaning up a square. With the recognition of specific acoustically stressed areas, officials hope to pave the way for sustainable solutions. “Our goal is to have a much quieter, peaceful and friendlier city,” Badia said.
The initiative is part of a wider set of measures – from traffic calming to noise reduction on construction sites – that will be rolled out in Barcelona in the coming years. Many aim to drown out traffic noise, which is the city’s main source of noise pollution.
Problems have also long erupted around the city’s nightlife. Thursday, more than 30 associations will take to the streets to protest under the banner of “Silence… Noise kills!
Among those planning to attend is Jordi Badia, whose street is home to one of the highest concentrations of restaurant terraces in Barcelona. “We have 114 residential buildings and 116 licensed terraces,” he told El Periódico.
Noise levels have skyrocketed in recent months, fueled by the proliferation of outdoor seating during the pandemic, Badia said. “There are passages where it is brutal. It’s not just terraces and people, we have bars that close at three in the morning. When people leave at three in the morning, you can imagine how it is.