Noise levels on the road under five Metro stations on the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar route are as loud as rock-drilling machines, found a survey by citizens’ group Watchdog Foundation, which asked the authorities to designate theses areas as Silence Zones.
The NGO measured sound levels under five Metro stations — Chakala metro (JB Nagar) station, Marol Naka, Saki Naka, Airport Road and Western Express Highway — and found noise levels ranging from 70 decibels (dB) to 91dB, with vehicles horns as the primary source of sound. The tunnel-like effect created by these stations along the road amplifies the sound, according to the survey
“We found that vehicles unnecessarily honk even if the halt is for a few minutes. Since these areas are under the metro station, there is an automatic amplification of noise and it can render people deaf if continuous exposure happens,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “Three of five stations have traffic signals underneath the station with vehicles strewn along a cascading line.”
In a letter with noise readings collected on Tuesday, the group asked the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to declare these areas as Silence Zones. “The idea is to levy heavy fines on commuters honking unnecessarily. While the traffic police is the worst affected, such a move will help senstise commuters about the ill effects of honking,” said Pimenta.
Traffic junctions in India have no rules on permissible sound levels regarding honking or vehicular noise. Horns in Mumbai have sound levels as high as 110 decibels (dB) – equal to a live rock band. This is significantly above the safe limit suggested by the World Health Organisation that says that long-term exposure to noise levels from 85db to 90db can lead to hearing loss.
Doctors said that exposure to high decibel noise causes hearing loss, high blood pressure, mental health illness and even cancer. “Exposure to noise pollution above 80 decibels (dB) for eight hours a day for eight years will induce permanent deafness. Shorter exposure of higher decibel levels also damages the ear drums,” said Dr MV Jagade, consultant ENT surgeon and head of department at JJ Hospital and Grant Medical College.
MPCB officials said that they have taken cognisance of the survey. “We will be monitoring noise levels underneath all metro stations and will be asking NGO Watchdog Foundation to join us. The report will be shared with the state government and Mumbai police, enforcement authority in noise pollution cases,” said a senior official from MPCB. “The jurisdiction to declare these metro stations as Silence Zones, falls under the ambit of the district collector.”
Senior officials from the traffic police said that there is need for more awareness among commuters. “When commuters are stuck in traffic, there is no need to honk continuously because it will not serve any purpose for traffic movement. Secondly, there is a need for implementing sound cancellation devices or barriers to check noise during the construction of such infrastructure projects,” said Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner, Traffic.
“There has to better planning when it comes to infra projects and this needs to be integrated with development plan of the city. Under any flyover, noise is bound to be amplified as there is an echo with the undersurface and sides are being concrete (reflective surfaces). However, how Mumbai has noise barriers installed along flyovers, the same needs to incorporated under metro stations and flyovers as part of the city’s plan,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.