The Delhi Master Plan 2021 (MPD) lays emphasis on constructing buffer zones using ‘thin leaved trees’ to provide effective barriers to transmission of noise and notifying certain areas as ‘no horn zones’. Despite that many residential societies have gone to court to voice their protest against noise pollution.
Section 9.1.3 of the MPD titled Noise accepts the fact that noise is emerging as a major pollutant and irritant as well as a constant source of disturbance and health hazards. Against a permissible level of 50-60 dB (A), the sound level in Indian cities often exceeds 80 dB (A). Faulty and leaking silencers, over-use of horns and vehicles plying on roads accentuate noise levels. Besides the noise from commercial and industrial activities, unabated use of sound amplifiers, generator sets and firecrackers make things worse.
By proper land use planning, such as location of public, semi-public and commercial activities along major transport arteries, a buffer can be created for residential zones. Green buffer through thin leaved trees, land formations, mounds and embankments along major roads could also provide effective barriers to transmission of noise. It is also necessary to improve monitoring and effective implementation of the noise pollution (level) rules 2000 and to notify certain areas as ‘No Horn Zones’. The design and surface material of roads and pavements should also ensure reduction of noise. The concerned authorities should prepare area wise traffic calming schemes and a Noise Monitoring and Control Plan (NMCP).
Environmentally stressed zones in Delhi should be identified and local area environment management plans should be prepared for such areas, together with regular monitoring.
As for cases in court, In 2011, Supreme Enclave society in Mayur Vihar, Delhi filed a case before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the All India Panchayat Parishad after which a few guidelines concerning noise pollution were issued. The main issue raised in the petition was about the noise pollution caused due to use of loudspeakers, DJ systems, music systems and public address systems during weddings, receptions, parties and other functions arranged in the premises of the All India Panchayat Parishad situated close to the housing society, thereby violating the terms of allotment of the said premises.
It said that the All India Panchayat Parishad had let out the adjacent land for marriages, parties etc, which are held almost every day in the year 2010 and even thereafter. The noise produced affected the health and disturbed the sleep of the residents, particularly infants and aged people and distracted children from concentrating on their studies and preparing for tests and exams. Besides loud-speakers and music systems, a heavy duty electricity generator was also installed which caused not only noise pollution but also posed air pollution problems. The society members alleged in the petition that in spite of repeated complaints to the police, no action had been taken to stop the nuisance of noise pollution emanating from the use of loudspeakers, music systems and other sources.
The NGT issued a set of guidelines as a result of this petition. It called for setting up a call centre where complaints relating to noise pollution could be lodged and called for drawing up a detailed action plan or a standard operating procedure (SOP) regarding control of noise pollution in industrial, hospitals and educational/institutional areas including monitoring mechanism and surveillance system, says Rahul Choudhary, a Supreme Court advocate and environment activist.
The SOP would help implement ban or use of generator sets of capacity of 5 KVA and above in the residential area between 10 pm to 6 am. It also called for examining the requirement and use of decibel meters and to prepare a detailed standard operating procedure in this respect including maintenance and upkeep of sound decibel meters.
It ordered that adequate numbers of noise meters should be provided to all police stations to enable them to check the noise levels emanating from the various sources and accordingly take appropriate actions.
Another case was filed before the NGT and was to do with a biscuit factory located in Tughlagabad in Delhi. The result was that the factory owners voluntarily agreed to relocate.
Residents of a society in Gurgaon are filing a case before the NGT. The case concerns a chilling plant located in the commercial building located adjacent to the residential complex. As the chilling plant has exceeded the sound levels prescribed under the law, the residents are planning to approach the pollution control board.