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Mumbai: Locals help turn Shivaji Park into a ‘silence zone’

In 2008, one of Mumbai’s largest sporting hubs, Shivaji Park in Dadar (West), was used for non-sporting activities for more than 100 days. Angry at the high levels of noise and pollution from the political rallies, residents decided to protect the ground by fighting for it to be declared a silence zone.

mumbai Updated: Aug 17, 2015 16:18 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Shivaji Park,Silence Zone,Noise Pollution

In 2008, one of Mumbai’s largest sporting hubs, Shivaji Park in Dadar (West), was used for non-sporting activities for more than 100 days. Angry at the high levels of noise and pollution from the political rallies, residents decided to protect the ground by fighting for it to be declared a silence zone.

Ashok Rawat, a local businessman, studied the chronological events over the decades that made a large portion of the 27.9-acre ground unavailable for sporting activities anymore. He spearheaded the fight to bring back the sporting traditions at the park by reminding authorities of environmental laws being broken with the use of the ground as a centre for political and commercial events.

Rawat, along with a group of residents such as Sharad Dixit, JD Udeshi and Mohan Warde, formed the Wecom trust (Walkers’ ecological movement) that consisted of 20 members. The trust filed a petition in 2009 at the Bombay high court (HC) after the municipal corporation refused to recognise the area as a silence zone.

http://i.imgur.com/NVHIn5U.jpg

Ashok Rawat, a local businessman, spearheaded the fight to bring back sporting traditions at the Shivaji Park. (Kunal Patil/HT photo)

“The park is surrounded by a number of hospitals, colleges and 11 different schools, which use the ground for sports and physical education activities. According to the Noise Pollution Rules, 2000, the decibel (db) levels for an area like this is supposed to be 45db. However, until we intervened, noise levels were way above the limit,” said Rawat.

Along with guidance and active support from anti-noise campaigner, Awaaz Foundation, the group was able to measure the exact decibel levels and drafted a strong public interest litigation (PIL).

“I remember measuring noise at a political rally which was more than 100db. The rally would start at 4am in the morning causing severe disturbance to residents for weeks,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener of the NGO Awaaz Foundation. “Rawat and others are an inspiration for residents of Mumbai. They showed a lot of courage by taking the trouble to stand up against the authorities for what the law clearly states.”

Their efforts were rewarded in 2010 when a HC bench of justice FI Rebello and justice AA Sayed passed an interim order, directing that Shivaji Park and its periphery be declared a “silence zone”, and banning the use of loudspeakers in the area from 10pm to 6am owing to the large number of schools and religious places in the vicinity.Sharad Dixit, trustee, Wecom said, “Right from the days of recurrent political processions till today, Rawat has been putting in tremendous efforts to make life easier for residents of the area. Citizens have to take action in the interest of the area they are living in.”

Originally created in 1925, Shivaji Park has been divided into 37 sub-plots given to 37 organisations including schools, colleges and clubs. Two of the plots, Shivaji Chhatrapati Maharaj Samiti and Udayan Ganesh temple are the only ones not used for sports currently and one stage used for public processions.

Loudspeakers on only 4 days a year:

After the interim order by the Bombay high court in 2010 directed that Shivaji Park and its periphery be declared a “silence zone”, loudspeakers are permitted on only four days of the year, the sound from which has to be at 45db under the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 –
* Republic Day, January 26
* Maharashtra Day, May 1
* Dr Ambedkar Mahaparinivaran Diwas, December 5 and 6

Other structures dotting the periphery of the grounds include:

* The Samarth Vyayam Mandir (gymnasium),

* Shivaji Park Nagarik Sangh (established in 1947),

* Children’s Park,

* Nana-Nani Park (park for senior citizens),

* Scout’s Pavilion

* Library

With a walkway lined with huge rain trees, residents of the area have been focusing on increasing the green cover by installing a sprinkler system.

First Published: Aug 17, 2015 16:14 IST