The city’s courts, all of which are Silence Zones, are exposed to noise levels up to 93 decibels (dB) — as loud as an industrial plant or the sound of a train travelling at 30km an hour.
Citizens’ group Watchdog Foundation found that noise levels at the Bombay high court, Fort was 89.8dB, small causes court, near Metro Cinema (93.2 dB), city civil court, Fort (70.4 dB) and chief metropolitan magistrates court, near Azad Maidan (68.8 dB). The group filed a complaint with the state pollution board on Tuesday about the violation of Silence Zone regulations outside the courts .
The World Health Organisation estimates that long-term exposure to noise levels from 85db to 90db can lead to hearing loss. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 identify silence zones to have noise levels of 45dB and 40dB during the day and night respectively.
“Incessant honking by motor vehicles has led to the noise pollution problem and violations are taking place at the doorstep of the same court (Bombay high court) that has passed several orders to regulate noise, especially in Silence Zones,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “The pollution board needs to look into the issue and direct the police to levy stricter fines for commuters.”
Traffic junctions in India have no permissible limits set for honking or vehicular noise. The average noise level from horns in Mumbai is 110dB – as high as the recurring noise of a jack hammer.
Lawyers in the Bombay HC confirmed there was a noise problem. “Honking is a habitual hazard and is a city-centric issue that is not being considered seriously,” said Asim Sarode, president of the National Green Tribunal bar association, who regularly practices at the Bombay HC. “It is a huge problem to the court because every word being spoken during a hearing is important for the proceedings and noise pollution outside the premises dilutes that sound.”
Officials from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) passed the buck on to the police. “Any action to be taken on such issues lies with the enforcement authority, which is the police. Decibel metres have been provided to them. However, if they need any help from us we will support them,” said a senior MPCB officer.
Senior officers from the Mumbai police said while a crackdown on noise pollution was underway, honking continued to be a serious issue in Mumbai.
“We have filed 12 cases related to noise pollution over the past month from the south Mumbai region alone. However, there is an immediate need to reach out to commuters and sensitise them about the honking problem,” said Manoj Kumar Sharma, deputy commissioner of police, zone 1.