Greece slow in fight against noise

Greece is set to start a project later this year to map noise pollution levels in Athens and Thessaloniki, more than a year after a deadline set by the World Health Organization. The project was meant to be completed last June, but Sunday's Kathimerini has discovered that the tender for the work to be carried out will be launched in September. «We inherited an incomplete situation,» said Nikolaos Krameros, the head of the Public Works and Environment Ministry's department for combating noise pollution. «The project was not included in the Third Community Support Framework, but will be included in the fourth, so we can now proceed. I expect the tender for the mapping of noise pollution in Athens and Thessaloniki to be announced in September.» According to figures made public earlier this year, both cities are thought to be among the noisiest in Europe, with some 60 percent of their populations afflicted by noise that exceeds 75 decibels, which is considerably higher than the recommended maximum level. The average person cannot sleep when subjected to 45 decibels of noise. At 120 decibels, the ear registers pain, but hearing damage begins at about 85 decibels. Exposure to these levels of sound can have an effect on people's health, such as causing hearing problems or altering their mood due to a lack of sleep. «Whenever a motorcycle goes by, it raises the sound levels by 10-12 decibels,» said National Technical University of Athens Associate Professor Giorgos Kabourakis. Although organizations such as the Ombudsman's office receive regular complaints, little action is taken. «Checks on the noise emitted by vehicles range from scarce to non-existent,» the Ombudsman said in a recent report. «There are no real checks on the quality of exhaust pipes.»