Cut the noise this Ganeshotsav!
The festive season was ushered in earlier this month with a few, albeit boisterous, pandals celebrating Janmashtami
Mumbai After two moderate seasons through the past lockdown years, the political class is going all out encouraging citizens to celebrate Ganeshotsav with sheer pomp and fervour. It has underscored brand Hindutva no less, with large advertisements emblazoned on the city’s BEST buses.
The festive season was ushered in earlier this month with a few, albeit boisterous, pandals celebrating Janmashtami.
On the other hand, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) effort towards sobriety, aligning with a quietness that most citizens had become accustomed to over the last two years, by choosing to monitor the decibel (dB) levels at Ganesh pandals maybe an attempt to swim against the tide.
The state government has appointed teams to check noise levels throughout the festival; officials will work with a BMC-appointed taskforce at municipal wards on visarjan day and popular procession spots.
Ramakant Biradar, deputy municipal commissioner, said that the civic body is equipped with sound monitoring machines which will be used for the purpose.
“The environment department has already come up with a chart of acceptable sound levels which is being circulated to organisers. We are also making an appeal to everyone not to exceed the maximum limit mentioned on the chart,” said Biradar. “We have mobile applications that can easily track the decibel level, which can be used by the organisers.”
The maximum noise limit in a residential area has been placed at 55 dB during the day and 45 dB during the night; in commercial hubs it is 65 dB during the day and 55 dB at night. In industrial areas, the limit is 75 dB during the day and 70 dB in the night. Meanwhile, in silent zones the maximum limit during the day is 50 dB and 40 at night. Upscale Malabar Hill is a silent zone.
“Our team members will measure the levels outside hospitals and residential zones. This will be compared with the figures stated in the chart,” he said. “While civic officials will monitor sound levels during the days of immersion those from the collector’s office will monitor the situation on ground at pandals, during the days of festival.”
Activist and founder of Awaaz Foundation, Sumaira Abdulali, who has been dexterously going about her calling of mapping noise levels in the city since 2003, said, “It will be interesting to see how it goes. The lockdown years have created a deep awareness among people about leading clean and quiet lives, which can only get consolidated.” However, in the same breath, she sounded a note of caution, saying, “There will definitely be violations. One only hopes the authorities will respect the court orders. Police have been mapping noise levels for many years, but has there been any action taken against violators?”
Decibel levels were way beyond acceptable limits, she said, at the recently concluded Janmashtami festival. Festivals perhaps lead people to drop their guard. Abdulali said while Eid e Milaad last year was calm, there was no cap on loudspeakers and horns at Mohammadali Road in the night, with noise shooting up sharply between 100 to 107 dB.
This year, Abdulali will be on the streets on the third or the fifth day of Ganesotsav and the day of the visarjan, measuring noise. She added citizens of Girgaum Chowpatty, Dadar, Bandra and Juhu are equally excited and apprehensive about the festival.
Karan Jotwani, an Oshiwara resident and co-founder of Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizen’s Association (LOCA), said, “Noise creates immense problems for senior citizens, such as my 84-year-old father and 81-year-old mother. Noisy processions passing from our area put tremendous pressure on their ears.”
Jotwani also insisted that the civic body institute a time limit for the processions. “Someone should monitor the processions that pass through after midnight,” he added.
Andheri-based Sweeta Choithramani shared how high decibel levels create problems for pet parents.
“Animals are very sensitive to sound. We have to bolt our doors and windows throughout the day during this time. Organisers bursting crackers and blaring music on loudspeakers disturb senior citizens as well. My mother-in-law, who is 70, suffers from palpitations and anxiety every year during the festival due to the noise,” said Choithramani.
Kapilesh Patil from Dadar, voiced similar concerns, as he said, organisers in their neighbourhood start cranking up their loudspeakers a week before the festival starts.
“BMC’s initiative is welcome. Both the aged as well as the young are affected by high decibel levels. It would be equally noteworthy if similar policing is extended during the New Year’s Eve celebrations and other religious festivals,” said Patil.