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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Mumbai development plan’s silence on noise rules violates court order, say activists

The HC had ordered the government to integrate a noise mapping study into the DP before clearing it

mumbai Updated: Apr 28, 2018 12:42 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times

Despite a Bombay high court order in August 2016 directing the state to regulate all types of noise pollution in Maharashtra, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) or the state government had not incorporated noise mapping into the city’s Development Plan 2034 (DP), said activists.

The HC had ordered the government to integrate a noise mapping study into the DP before clearing it. The order written by a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Amjad Sayed read, “The state government shall consider undertaking exercise of noise mapping in all major cities in the state as availability of data... will help concerned authorities to discharge their duties. It will be a very important, strategic tool available in the matter of town planning.”

“Needless to state that while finalising the DP, provisions under noise rules need to be complied especially all aspects of noise pollution are to be treated as parameters of quality of life,” it continued. Noise mapping refers to capturing existing noise levels and predicting levels in case of change in land use, which is segregated into various categories such as residential, industrial, silence and commercial zones.

A noise mapping exercise makes it easier for the civic body to identify silence zones, said Sumaira Abdulali from NGO Awaaz Foundation, petitioner in the HC matter. “It is disturbing that in view of assurances made to the HC, noise mapping has not been completed in time to integrate it into the DP. The exercise was first discussed over a decade ago,” she said.

Abdulali said by identifying sources of noise pollution, a balance is achieved between the environment and development. “Zoning laws for construction of different types of infrastructure need to be appropriately based on the findings from the noise map. For example, a hospital cannot be placed next to a noisy restaurant or an open ground where school events take place,” she said.

The BMC said it had made separate provisions to ensure noise rules were not violated during redevelopment activities. “While noise mapping has not been made part of the DP, noise rules and violations have been included in the environment section of the revised Development Control Regulations (DCR),” said an official from the DP department. He revealed that these rules need to be followed as a specific condition before the BMC issued the intimation of disapproval (IOD) — an important authorisation given to developers for redevelopement .

“Based on the finalisation of the revised DCR, we will direct the Mumbai police to take action against new constructions and redevelopments that violate noise norms,” said LS Vhatkar, deputy municipal commissioner (environment), BMC.

Notify 40 more silence zones: NGO to BMC

Anti-noise campaigner Awaaz Foundation has listed 25 hospitals, 14 educational institutions and one ward office (court) as silence zones across the city and asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to recognise them as such.

In a letter to the BMC and state environment department, Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation asked them why these locations were left out in the new list of silence zones.

HT was the first to report in December last year that of the 27 municipal corporations in the state, the BMC was the first and only corporation to have submitted a proposal identifying 110 locations as silence zones in Mumbai. Subsequently, the state urban development department notified all 110 locations. However, this year no other locations have been suggested or demarcated so far.

Silence zones are defined as areas with a 100-metre radius around hospitals, courts, educational or religious institutions where noise levels must not exceed 45 decibels (dB) and 40dB during the day and night.

“These are some of the major locations that need to be identified as silence zones on priority, and it is baffling that these were left out in the original notification. Through my letter, I have asked the BMC for reasons for non-inclusion and request other citizens to submit their suggestions so that this list can be expanded at the earliest,” said Abdulali. On August 10, 2017, the union environment ministry amended the noise rules, which led to the scrapping of 1,503 silence zones in Mumbai.

“An earlier list of more than 1,500 silence zones was first identified by ward offices across Mumbai in 2009 and subsequently added. All these locations met the silence zone criteria, and it is difficult to understand why they were left out in the latest list,” said Abdulali.

BMC officials said they had not received new suggestions by different ward offices so far. “The task of identifying these zones depends on recommendations from wards. Ward offices are collating information, but we request citizens to reach out to them too,” said LS Vhatkar, deputy municipal commissioner (environment), BMC.