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Mumbai celebrates quieter Diwali

Mumbai was spared some of the bombardment as the city marked a quieter Diwali, writes Neha Bhayana.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2006 16:35 IST

Deafening noise of the ladis (string bombs) that seem to go on for eternity, the ear-splitting boom of the sutli (atom bomb) and the ensuing headache are all as much a part of Diwali as the diyas and sweets.

The evening of the festival and for several days preceding it, even bolted windows and cotton swabs stuffed into ears would not provide relief as revelers burst the noisiest crackers to mark the 'festival of lights'.

But those days are almost over. This Diwali, Mumbai was spared some of the bombardment of noise as city-dwellers celebrated a quieter and more environment-friendly Diwali.

Rule Book----Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is undesirable sound. One measure of noise pollution is the danger it poses to health. Noise causes stress, illness and creates annoyance. Therefore, any form of noise can be considered pollution if it causes annoyance, Noise is transient. We can measure individual sounds that may damage human hearing, but it is difficult to monitor cumulative exposure to noise.

Noise Level Measurement and Noise Pollution Standards

Noise is often measured in decibles (dBA). The symbol indicates a measurement of a logarithmic scale Fast responses closely match to the simulations of Human ear sensitivity. Fast response (125 to 200 milli-second) was selected to measure noise levels. The human response to Noise depends upon the frequency of the sound, the type of noise (continuous, intermittent or impulsive) and the time (day or night)it occurs.

Noise has been recognized as ambient air pollutant.

Standards in this regard are laid down under The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (and rules made there under) and under the Model Rules of the Factories Act, 1948 for occupational health and safety purposes.

The Central Pollution Control Board constituted a National Committee of Experts on Noise Pollution Control. The Committee recommended noise standards for ambient air and for automobiles, domestic appliances and constructions equipment, which were later notified under The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Causing noise pollution is a punishable offence under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1986- imprisonment of up to five years or fine up to Rs One lakh or both based on Category of Area and Limits in dB(A)

A Industrial area 75 70

B Commercial area 65 55

C Residential Area 55 45

D Silence Zone (educational institutions, hospitals etc) 50 40

Talk of the noise and air pollution caused by firecrackers has changed many hearts in Mumbai. Ask nine-year-old Tanishka Kohli why she doesn't burst crackers anymore and pat comes the reply, "They make so much noise and harm the ears". The cute standard IV student from Villa Theresa School is convinced by her teachers' talk on the harmful effects of crackers. "I will buy new clothes instead with the money my parents give me," she said, adding finishing touches to the rangoli, she is making at her Walkeshwar residence.

While Kohli gave up crackers all together, many Mumbaikars went for 'noiseless crackers'- the lesser evil. At Essabhai's-the oldest and biggest firecracker shop at Mohammed Ali Road-there has seen a sharp decline in the sale of "awaazwalla"(noisy) crackers.

"Since the last five years, people are becoming increasingly conscious. The sale of bombs and ladis is only 20 per cent of what it used to be," said Abdullah Ghia, the third-generation owner of Essabhai and head of Firecracker Retailers' Association.

Instead, customers now prefer the hawawalla (that zoom into the air) crackers like rockets, missiles and air chakrees. These make sound of only 60 decibels, explained Ghia, as opposed to the 160 plus decibels of atom bombs.

HR College student Fatema Harvewalli stuck to fuljharis (sparklers) and zamin chakris (floor discs). "I used to burst bombs but I don't anymore. It doesn't make sense to create so much noise and pollute the environment for momentary pleasure," she said.

Worli resident Prashant Warlikar did the same. "Noisy crackers damage ears and are harmful for pregnant women and children," he said, as he bought anars (flower pots) and chakris for his school-going children.

As per the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) guidelines, the permissible limit for crackers is 125 decibels. Manufacturers have altered their products to adhere to this limit and the growing demand for less noisy crackers. The new 'Sumo bombs' now make 115 decibels of sound compared to 140 earlier. Ladi bombs are also available in the 'low-decibel' variety.

The MPCB has been campaigning for a less noisy Diwali and says its efforts have borne fruit. "The sale of sulti bombs has reduced considerably over the last few years. Diwali has become less noisy," said Sanjay Biskute, PRO of MPCP.

For the last three years, MPCP has been monitoring the noise levels during three days of Diwali festival at 115 locations in Maharashtra, including 45 in Mumbai. According to the 2005 report, Diwali was much quieter than the year before and there was almost no activity after 11 pm in Mumbai and Pune.This year MPCP is conducting the same study and will release its report on Thursday.

For many though Diwalis is not complete without the noise. At Ubaid Sutry's road-side stall at Mohammed Ali Road, atom bombs and bullet bombs sold like hot cakes on Saturday as did "Lalloo ki train", a rocket which goes up and keeps circling noisily like a train. "Awaaz ke bina to Diwali pheeka hai," said Sutry, who has been selling crackers for 16 years.

First Published: Oct 22, 2006 16:15 IST