Sumaira Abdulali, convenor of the Awaaz Foundation, said a noise mapping study could help the city plan how to tackle noise pollution.
According to a comparative analysis released by the Central Pollution Control Board in March, Mumbai is noisier than Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore and the busiest parts of London, New York and Beijing. What do you think is the problem?
In most other countries, noise is recognised as a serious health hazard and sustained efforts are made to keep it in check, but not in India. Gatherings of various kinds are sought to be excluded from noise pollution rules; often these are commercial or political functions or in the guise of ‘religion’ or ‘tradition’. Traffic discipline is not followed and horns are used unnecessarily. Silencers in rickshaws are tampered with to get a better fuel consumption rate, which also necessitates louder horns. There are no guidelines to mandate maximum sound levels at construction sites, noise barriers around such sites, silencers on equipment, working hours, etc.
What about noise barriers and noise-monitoring stations?
Noise barriers are effective in reducing traffic noise. But in some cases they can block air and light when residential buildings are very close to the noise source. They would be effective where buildings are further away, as in the case of IIT-Bombay. In the case of noise monitoring stations, data produced has limited use on its own since it represents a few fixed locations. It can be used as a baseline to generate data for the rest of the city and verified for integration in a noise map. Noise mapping is a scientific method to understand existing and projected noise levels. It should be carried out immediately and its recommendations integrated into the next Development Plan.
What is the way ahead?
In addition to noise barriers, the civic body should notify rules to regulate noise levels at construction sites, including for interior decoration work, along with work timings, type of equipment, etc. Traffic noise can be controlled by the regional transport office with help from the traffic police by ensuring good driving skills during licensing and strict compliance with lane discipline and anti-honking rules. The decibel level of horns and use of functioning silencers also should be verified. Law enforcement authorities and politicians need to recognise the ill effects of noise during festivals and by religious institutions. Open areas, which may safely permit noisy functions, should be identified. No other area should have a noisy event.