Not just air pollution, top Indian metros have higher noise pollution levels than most cities, a probable health hazard.
In the first ever real-time data of noise pollution in 35 locations around seven cities released on Wednesday, a decade after India notified noise standard, indicated that average day time noise levels in metros was much higher than the national standard of 65 decibel ampere (see graphic).
The World Health Organisation's new guideline says noise above 80 decibels can cause hearing impairment, especially among children, above 30 decibel can cause sleeping disorders and also impacts spoken communication, cardiovascular activity and triggers negative social behavior. "Vehicles are the biggest contributor to high noise level in Indian cities but constant honking aggravates the problem," said S P Gautam chairperson of pollution watchdog, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Most stations where high levels of noise were recorded were next to busy and congested roads. "Noise level testing of vehicles is not mandatory in India like in western countries"
A quick comparison by HT with noise levels in some international cities indicated that those in Indian cities are living in nosiest parts of the global urban landscape. Noise levels in busy parts of London, New York and Beijing was less than Income Tax Office in New Delhi and Bandra in Mumbai.
For environment minister Jairam Ramesh the noise data is a new weapon to push city governments to streamline traffic and ensure that standard prescribed level of 65 decibels is maintained. "As the data is available on real-time, the state governments can devise traffic plans for actual time intervention," he said.
Among Indian cities, locations monitored in Mumbai was nosiest followed by Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. "Achworth Hospital and Bandra in Mumbai constantly has highest noise pollution levels followed by Income Tax Office in Delhi," Gautam said.
Pollution watchdog, the Central Pollution Control Board had installed noise-monitoring stations in seven cities, which would be expanded to 25 cities within a year. The number of monitoring stations in each metro will also be increased for macro level management of noise pollution.