Noise pollution spirals due to construction, authorities fail to act
Citizens in Mumbai are complaining of constant noise pollution from construction sites and road concretisation works, violating noise regulations. Some citizens have reported noise levels exceeding permissible limits and construction work being carried out during prohibited hours. Complaints to authorities have been unsuccessful, with blame being passed between the police and the BMC. Experts argue that noise pollution is not being given enough attention, despite being equally harmful as air pollution. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules mandate that ambient noise should not exceed certain levels.
MUMBAI: With over 6,500 construction sites in the city and nearly 400 km of roads being concretised, citizens living close to these sites are being assailed by constant noise. According to them, some of the sites are also in violation of the government’s noise pollution regulations.
The Mumbai North Central District Forum (MNCDF), a citizen welfare group, has been writing to the authorities on the noise pollution from various sites. “Our forum has been receiving multiple complaints of blatant noise pollution from across the city by private builders and the BMC’s haphazard road concretisation works,” said advocate Trivankumar Karnani, founder of MNCDF.
Karnani shared pictures and videos from a road construction site at Guru Gangeshwar Marg in Khar West. “Citizens are woken up by the sound of heavy machinery at 3 am or 4 am,” he said. “The contractors don’t follow any norms and the police fail to enforce the law despite being informed multiple times.”
HT spoke to citizens from different parts of Mumbai. While some spoke of decibel (dB) levels going beyond permissible limits, others mentioned the prolonged construction hours, way beyond the permissible time. They also pointed out that their letters to the authorities did not yield any results.
“When we write to the authorities with proof, the police pass the buck to the BMC while the BMC passes it to the police. But neither wants to act,” said Raj Dedhia, a resident from Matunga.
Dedhia shared a letter written by the BMC’s building proposals department to a private builder after his complaint of noise at Jame Jamshed Road, 5 gardens, Matunga East. “You are hereby directed to take remedial measure to reduce loud sound /noise due to ongoing construction on said premises by using advance construction equipment, modem construction technique and noise barrier, etc as per EODB, DCPR 2034 and National Building Code, failing which necessary action deemed fit may be initiated as per policy,” (sic) says the letter, a copy of which is with HT. But the builder paid no heed to the BMC warning, said Dedhia.
Experts say that there is scant attention given to noise pollution compared to air pollution, even though the former is equally bad for health. The central government’s Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, mandate that ambient noise should not exceed 55 dB during daytime and 45dB during nighttime in residential areas. For silence zones, it is 50dB and 40 dB respectively.
Sumaira Abdulali, founder of Awaaz Foundation, an NGO working on noise pollution, said that the authorities paid very little attention to the issue. “We are talking about noise levels in the region of 100 dB across the city which sometimes goes on till late night. This affects infants, children and senior citizens the most,” she said, adding that the most common answer that citizens received in response to their complaints was that development could not be stopped. “The authorities think it is ok if people suffer for some time and want the citizens to adjust and bear the noise. I do not think this is okay, and the authorities are unwilling to resolve this issue,” said Abdulali, whose petition on noise pollution is pending before the Bombay high court.
A senior BMC official said that the buildings proposal department had the power to issue stop work notices to private builders. “The department gives permission for all construction, and the approval letter mentions that noise must be below the specified decibel levels,” he said. “If this is not followed, the department can issue a stop work notice.”
The official said that ward officials (assistant commissioners) too had the power to issue multiple notices, and builders could be booked for creating a nuisance and penalised for not following the conditions in the approval letter. “The police too have the power to act on noise pollution, as permissions are also taken from them,” he said. “Public projects such as road construction also have these conditions mentioned in their tender.”
Dr Avinash Desousa, consultant psychiatrist, Desousa Foundation, said it was a well-known fact that people needed silence and calm. “Noise makes one anxious, upset and irritable,” he said. “If a person is depressed, it affects them even more. Constant noise also affects productivity. Students are affected the most because they need silence to study. Because of this constant noise, general irritability levels are on the rise.”