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Right to darkness: Mumbaiites living near club approach NGO to understand light pollution

Floodlights at Wilson Gymkhana in Mumbai’s Marine Lines could be affecting health, say residents

mumbai Updated: Nov 28, 2017 10:34 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Light pollution,Wilson Gymkhana
A recent photograph by residents shows floodlights at Wilson Gymkhana on at 3.32 am.

Disturbed by high-intensity floodlights at Wilson Gymkhana in Marine Lines, residents of the area have contacted environmentalists to calculate the intensity of the light and its effect on their health.

Last week, Nilesh Desai, a Chira Bazaar resident, sought help form NGO Awaaz Foundation.

“Night becomes day when Wilson Gymkhana floodlights are on,” he said. “To prevent bright light from entering the house, we use thick curtains. However, this prevents cool sea breeze from entering the house throughout the year. Unable to lead a life that we want to is a violation of Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India.”

The gymkhana land is owned by the revenue department, but events such as sports competitions and weddings, among others, are organised by Wilson Multimedia Private Limited.

The gymkhana officials said they adhere to the norms and switch off the lights at 10pm.

“We are aware of the problem and have also met residents, who live far away from the ground, to discuss the matter. No permission is required from the district collector for organising sports competitions that need floodlights, since we have leased the ground. However, we have reached out to the office time and again to ensure all formalities are complete but did not receive a response,” a senior gymkhana official said. “All precautionary measures are being taken. The issue will be taken up with the police and collector this week.”

Countering the claims, Desai said the ground is often used for events other than sports competitions. He added that an RTI query filed with the collector’s office revealed that no permissions were issued by the department to the gymkhana management for setting up floodlights.

“This is illegal and has been highlighted to the authorities. But no action has been taken so far. When I apprised the BEST about the problem, its officials said unlike noise, there were no guidelines to measure light pollution and initiate action against offenders,” he said.

Not only Desai, but other residents too pointed out that despite repeated reminders from the Mumbai police, the lights continue to stay on beyond 12am.

“The problem is that people are not aware that this [light pollution] poses a threat to our health, so they don’t raise a red flag,” said Ritesh Jain, resident of nine-storey Sunkersett Building in Chira Bazaar.

“Several residents have purchased thick curtains to prevent the light from entering their homes. This prevents cross ventilation, which is a must during summers,” said Ashok Dharia, another resident. “Sleeping at night is a problem, as the whole house is lit up despite installing thick curtains.”

Earlier this year, the Mumbai police issued a notice to gymkhana and said the lights could cause accidents on Marine Drive.

“We have taken cognisance of the [residents’] complaint. We have written to the district collector’s office that they need to check the problem. We also issued a notice to Wilson Gymkhana, stating that they need to ensure that residents living in the nearby areas are not affected by the floodlights,” said Manoj Sharma, deputy commissioner of police, Zone 1. “We have not received any response from them till date.”

A senior official from the district collector’s office said the matter will soon be taken up during a meeting with the Wilson Gymkhana management .

“The use of floodlights needs to be avoided after 10pm. While granting permission to gymkhanas in the city, which are on government land, for activities other than sports, we have directed that the neighbours should not be disturbed because of floodlights or noise. Notices have been served to them in the past, but we will take up the matter in the next meeting,”the official added.

A compilation of studies on light pollution by Suraiya Artes and Sumaira Abdulali from Awaaz Foundation — from August this year — identified five categories of light pollution (see box), health impacts on humans and animals, and the need for a policy to curtail the use of excessive man-made light.

“In the absence of rules, light pollution is affecting the health of south Mumbai residents. We have highlighted the need for stringent norms and will prepare a case study that will help the government frame guidelines to impose limits on time and intensity of light,” said Abdulali.

First Published: Nov 27, 2017 21:12 IST