Vehicles that honk in silence zones outside major Mumbai hospitals make as much noise as a packed football stadium, a study by Awaaz Foundation revealed. The noise from vehicular traffic regularly touches 100.5 decibels (dB), according to the study.
Awaaz Foundation measured noise levels outside six hospitals on Tuesday, a day before International Noise Awareness Day. It found that traffic noise outside PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim touched 100.5 decibels (dB). KEM hospital in Parel was the second loudest at 100.3 dB. Outside Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Sion, noise levels reached 97.3dB at Lilavati Hospital. They also measured noise levels Bandra (95.1dB), Holy Family Hospital, Bandra (97.4dB) and Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children (99.6dB).
The World Health Organisation estimates that long-term exposure to noise levels from 85db to 90db is enough to cause hearing loss. Noise standards, as laid down under the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 identify silence zones, which include areas outside hospitals. Silence zones have an upper limit of 50dB in the day and 40dB at night.
“Vehicles honking outside hospitals is a serious health issue for patients. I also saw many hospital guards use whistles to control traffic,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz. “Honking can be as loud as festival noise and sometimes even louder at night. As honking affects mental health and sleep, patients take a long time to recover.”
YOUR HEARING ABILITY IS 19 YEARS OLDER THAN YOU
A World Hearing Index – a global ranking developed by researchers at Mimi and Charite University Hospital in Berlin – found that the average hearing loss for Mumbai citizens is +18.58 years — meaning a citizen in Mumbai has the hearing ability of an individual almost 19 years older than themselves.
This makes Mumbai the second - worst in the world for average hearing loss – or reduced hearing abilities – out of 50 cities that were studied.
Doctors said treatment in hospitals is a painful experience for both patients and them. “Patients are disturbed but they cannot be helped. Hospitals and patients are silent sufferers of this indiscipline. The police need to levy heftier fines to stop this,” said Sanjeev Mehta, senior specialist, Lilavati Hospital in Bandra.
In 2016, the police registered a record 13,883 cases and imposed 816 penalties for various honking-related violations such as the use of pressure horns, musical horns and reverse horns. “Traffic police personnel have been told to take strict action against those violating noise rules, especially through honking. We have already carried out a number of campaigns to sensitise citizens who are honking unnecessarily. It is a request to citizens to wait patiently at traffic signals till it turns green,” said a senior official from the traffic police.
The state transport commissioner told HT that this was a long-standing issue and the National Green Tribunal, Pune had asked the transport department to check noise levels and impose fines on violators. “We are waiting for standard operating procedures from the state pollution control board as per the directions of the NGT on how to measure decibel levels and take punitive action against those violating noise rules,” said transport commissioner Dr Pravin Gedam.