Noise pollution complaints during Diwali? The helplines in Mumbai won’t help you
The only exception was one helpline number where the attendant noted down the complaint and said they would inform the policemumbai Updated: Oct 16, 2017 16:22 IST
This week promises to be loud and noisy, as every Diwali is in the city, and there’s precious little you can do if the din in your locality is particularly disruptive or relentless. The helplines run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the government where Mumbaiites can file complaints about noise pollution are either not working, or do not accept such complaints.
Just two months ago, in August, the BMC submitted a list of telephone numbers to the Bombay High Court on which citizens could call to complain about noise violations. This was done after the court, while hearing a petition filed by a Thane doctor, suggested that all municipal corporations in the state set up a complaint mechanism, and asked the state, the police and the BMC to strictly implement rules related to noise.
However, HT has found that these numbers are useless.
HT called the telephone numbers provided for each of the 24 municipal wards, the two toll-free numbers (1292 and 1293) as well as the helpline (1916). While the phone numbers in most ward offices are not working or are unattended, the phone attendants on toll-free numbers and ward offices such as F-South (Parel), G-North (Dadar), A (Colaba), D (Grant Road) ward and K-East (Andheri East) refused to take note of noise violations and asked us to file the complaint directly with the police.
The only exception was one helpline number where the attendant noted down the complaint and said they would inform the police. However, when HT contacted the number later to find out what action had been taken, we were told that the complaint had been forwarded to the police and that they had no idea whether the police had investigated the matter.
In an affidavit filed in the Bombay High Court last month, anti-noise campaigner NGO Awaaz Foundation has stated that the helpline numbers are not functional, or are transferred to the BMC’s disaster management cell, which refuses to accept noise-related complaints.
“When it comes to a serious problem such as noise pollution, which can cause people health issues, it is mandatory for the local municipal corporation to have a functional complaint mechanism to support the efforts of the police and the state pollution control board,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.
Many Mumbaiites have complained that the numbers were of no use during Ganeshotsav and dahi handi this year. “After filing complaints with the local police station, which remained unattended, I tried calling the local ward office and got the response: “It is a festival and there will be noise”. The BMC needs to be more supportive and understand that we could not cope with the extent of noise,” said Ruhi Moolchandani, a resident of Kandivli, who tried complaining about the din coming from a Ganesh pandal in her neighbourhood.
“Being a municipal corporation, they must be sensitive to the problems people face. My complaints during dahi handi were not registered by either the police or the BMC,” said a resident of Tardeo, who tried filing complaints about noise a couple of times this year, and did not want to be identified. “BMC officials need to be made aware of how noise pollution can affect human health.”
Senior civic officials said directions and circulars have been issued to every ward to accept noise pollution complaints and forward them to the police. “We will ensure that our officers are told about this process again, if there has been any lack of services on our part, and we will ensure that the numbers get functional immediately, if they are not working,” said Anand Waghralkar, deputy municipal commissioner, BMC. “On our toll-free numbers, our officers have a process of documenting complaints about noise pollution, unauthorised pandals and unauthorised posters. We will monitor this and ensure that citizens’ complaints are handled.”
The city police were vague about their position in the matter. “The matter is being heard by the Bombay HC and is sub judice. They have already directed the BMC to submit their response. The court will take a decision for future course of action,” said Deepak Devraj, deputy commissioner of police (operations) and spokesperson for Mumbai police.
Officials with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), which is the enforcement authority for noise regulations, said that all 27 municipal corporations in Maharashtra have been issued directions to work in tandem with it and ensure strict implementation of noise rules. “Noise pollution has reduced significantly across Mumbai and Maharashtra over the years. However, all state departments have to work in tandem to ensure our ambient noise levels reduce and are closer to safe limits,” said P Anabalagan, member secretary, MPCB.