Over 37 years, the Vishwanathans changed many addresses — Wadala, Matunga, Santacruz (W), Santacruz (E) and Andheri. But about 10 years ago, when it came to deciding where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives, the couple chose the relatively quiet Panvel over bustling Mumbai. And they never regretted it.
“Noise was the main reason for moving to Panvel. In Mumbai, you cannot escape noise,” said Padma Vishwanathan (58). Recently, her husband, PR Vishwanathan, was detected with tinnitus (a ringing sound in the ears). “The doctor said it was because of exposure to noise over many years.”
Their last address was JP Road, Andheri (E), in 2003 where foundations have been erected for the Versova-Ghatkopar flyover. “There was so much noise even then. I can imagine how bad it must be now. People honk even in the middle of the night. At least we don’t hear it in Panvel,” Padma said.
Padma’s description fits perfectly with the city being described as noisier than the busiest parts of London, New York and Beijing. Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore follow suit, according to the first comparative analysis of noise pollution levels released by the Central Pollution Control Board in March.
Within Mumbai, of the five spots where noise-monitoring stations have been set up, Bandra leads the pack with average decibel levels higher than the national standard of 65 db ampere.
While sources of noise pollution include generators, firecrackers, loudspeakers and music systems, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) officials said vehicular horns were the prime reason for the rise in noise levels, especially during peak hours. “Data shows that noise levels rise after 8 am and reduce only after 8 pm. This was recorded even by a monitoring station at Navi Mumbai hospital, a silent zone,” said SC Kollur, scientific officer, MPCB.
Doctors said there is an increase in the number of patients with hearing problems.
“Traffic congestion, the noise of engines and horns are the loudest sources,” said Dr Gauri Mankekar, ENT consultant, Hinduja Hospital. “Many people living in urban centres are susceptible to high-frequency hearing loss. One sign is that a person may require the television’s volume higher than the rest.”
It was only in February, 10 years after noise rules were notified, that Mumbai received two remote noise monitoring stations at Bandra and Wadala respectively as part of a pilot project of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Three others are at Navi Mumbai and Thane.
So far, noise was being monitored only during Diwali and Ganesh Chathurti where the emphasis was on adhering to the 10 pm deadline laid down by the Supreme Court. On other days, there was no monitoring.
“Now that we’ve started, monitoring will help us draw up an action plan,” said Kollur.
Some steps have already been taken to reduce noise levels. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has installed a noise barrier at Bandra-Kurla Complex and plans to put up more on busy roads, such as the one outside the Indian Institute of Technology at Powai, which will cost Rs 4 crore. MPCB will also set up five more noise monitoring stations across Mumbai.
“Noise monitoring stations will give a good idea of decibel levels in the area. Concrete measures can then be taken to address noise pollution in that area,” said Dr Yeshwant Oke, noise pollution expert. “Before installing new noise barriers, a study should be done whether the ones already installed have helped or not.”