The blaring sounds of vehicle horns, the metro construction work and Diwali firecrackers have not disturbed Vijay Singh’s afternoon nap and drawing room conversations since 2010.
Finally up with the noise, Singh, 50, who lives on the Juhu-Vile Parle Development (JVPD) Scheme road, has installed double pane windows in all the rooms of his ground-floor home. “It was difficult to relax at home after a hard day at work. Even closing the windows did not help and the din on the road was intolerable,” he said. “The noise is less than half of what it was earlier.”
Be it car horns or loudspeakers, firecrackers or bulldozers, noise has become synonymous with living in the city. In fact, Mumbai was declared the world’s noisiest city in a survey by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2011.
“It is very difficult to implement rules related to noise pollution in Mumbai,” said DT Devale, senior law officer, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board. “Since 2006, more authorities have been appointed to check noise levels in different parts of the city. Earlier, only the police could keep a check on the decibel levels.”
For Mohit Ramesh, 34, the daily commute from his Mankhurd residence to his Parel office is tolerable only because he travels with the windows rolled up, in the comfort of his air-conditioned car. “On days that I don’t get my vehicle, I travel with colleagues instead of hailing a taxi and settling for a noisy ride,” he said.
Much of the traffic noise is because of unnecessary honking, say the traffic police. “We cannot man every junction, but we make sure that noise rules are not flouted in silence zones,” said Vivek Phansalkar, joint commissioner of police (traffic). “People should change their attitude.”
While some citizens work to reduce noise pollution, many Mumbaiites have simply made lifestyle adjustments to cope.
It has been almost two decades since Dilish Parekh, 60, opened the glass windows of his drawing room in his Peddar Road residence. The jeweller says he has developed stress and high blood pressure problems because of noise. “Even in the wee hours, there are vehicles on the main road, disturbing our sleep,” said Parekh, who has lived in the same house for 40 years. “We keep the AC switched on through the day.”
Authorities are now making an effort to get people to cut down the noise they make. Last month, the Bombay high court directed the police to grant permissions for functions in silence zones only if the organisers agree to use a distributed sound system, which uses low-wattage loudspeakers or radio transmitters placed at regular intervals through the venue, instead of loudspeakers.
The need is for people to change their attitude. “People must change their mindset about loud, noisy functions, which are common in India,” said Sumaira Abdulali, chairperson, Awaaz Foundation, a non-profit organisation that has been pushing for the implementation of noise and silence zone rules in the city. “The sound emitted at functions disturbs not just the audience but also people in the vicinity.”