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WHAT IS NOISE POLLUTION?
WHAT YOU CAN DO

All of us are constantly exposed to sound.  Those like the twittering of birds, the rustling of leaves, the gentle lapping of waves are natural sounds that would strike a responsive chord in most of us.  But when even pleasant sounds become too loud, they become unwanted noise.  Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB).  It is a unit for expressing the relative intensity of sound on a scale from zero (for the average least perceptible sound) to about 130 for the average pain level.

 
Harmful effects of Noise:-

Noise is harmful.  Damage caused by noise can range from bursting of eardrum, permanent hearing loss (in a recent survey 80% of Traffic Police in Pune were found to be deaf), cardiac and cardiovascular changes, stress, fatigue, lack of concentration, deterioration in motor and psychomotor functions, nausea, disturbance of sleep, headaches, insomnia, and loss of appetite and much other damage is caused.  Pregnant women exposed to high noise levels may be at risk.  Harmful effects are there even if you don’t feel you are being disturbed.  Psychological disturbances and emotional distress also occur -  violent conduct by persons continuously exposed to unbearable noise.

The National Physical Laboratory has found that Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta are the noisiest cities in the world.  Even the Election Commission has recognized the harmful effects of noise and banned use of loudspeakers during the elections.  Widespread ill effects of Noise Pollution such as high blood pressure, increased acidity and peptic ulcer formation, deafness, mental agitation and disturbance of sleep generally became known to people in early 1980s.  So far Bombay Police Act 1951 and Bombay Municipal Corporation Act 1888 considered noise as just a nuisance, now it is known as major health hazard.  We in India are exposed not only to noises, common to most countries, but in addition we have to face misuse of loudspeakers, loud and shrill vehicle horns, noisy crackers, etc, which are firmly put down in most countries.

Sources of Noises

A survey carried out in Bombay by the Society for Clean Environment (SOCLEEN) and Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for Hearing Handicapped revealed that the main sources for noise were:

1. Road Traffic
2. Use of loudspeakers
3. Bursting of crackers
4. Industrial activities
5. Railways
6. Aircrafts
7. Radio and Television
 
Rights and remedies

All of us are entitled to live in an environment free from pollution.  Under the recently enacted Environment Protection Act 1986, the Government does have the power to curb noise pollution; rules have been framed for enforcing this aspect of the Act in 1989.

If you are concerned or troubled by noise pollution and seek to remedy the situation, the answer is simple – you must be prepared to act.  Preferably form a group in your society or locality which is prepared to take up all violations of the Environment Protection Act, with the police; the Municipality and if necessary, the Courts.

First and foremost examine your own actions and consider whether you are creating unnecessary noise, which affects your neighbours and surroundings.  You may not have control over all sources of noise, but you can at least control the noise levels emanating from your own radio, TV, car etc.  Also don’t buy firecrackers that make noise - buy only the ones that light up your celebrations. Persuade your friends and neighbours to do the same.

If you are still troubled by obnoxious noise in your neighbourhood caused by loudspeakers, film shows, late night parties, crackers etc., ring up the police control room (100) as well as the nearest police station.  You are not bound to give your name and address.  Please keep an accurate record of your complaints.  If you phone the police control room, ask for your complaint ‘ticket’ number.

Also get the name and designation of the officer who answers the phone, as well as the time and the date.  If the concerned police officer refuses to act, the police commissioner will then be able to pull up his recalcitrant officers.  Do make sure you mention all the relevant details in your complaint.

It is also advisable to make a written complaint to nearby police station with copy to Police Commissioner and copy to Bombay Environmental Action Group, preferably make a group complaint.

 
NOISE FROM MOTOR VEHICLES:-

Complain to Regional Transport Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic).  Give the offending vehicle’s number/s, and the date, time and place of the offense.

 
SALE AND USE OF BANNED CRACKERS:

Present Police regulations ban firecrackers between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Although this is a violation of the Environment Protection Act, even this is completely ignored, and the police have taken no action although the Bombay Police Act empowers them to do so.  Moreover the maximum fine for violation according to the Bombay Police Act is Rs.50/- but the EP Act provides for a fine of Rs.1 lakh and jail for five years.  Even if a single case is brought to court and exemplary punishment given, there will be a major change in attitude – the contempt, which some people have for the general welfare of the people and inability of the police to act.  There are special regulations for firecrackers near hospitals, nursing homes, etc. but these are also totally ignored causing patients intense agony (as has been repeatedly pointed out in the press).

The police routinely issue lists of banned types of firecrackers.  However neither the public, the police or the explosives department can state, by looking at a cracker, that it is illegal.  For instance, an atom bomb must not weigh more than 21 gms.  Is any one able to say looking at it, that it is under 21 gms?  Or the authorities supposed to carry weighing scales and weigh each and every item in all shops?  The only way is to control manufacture at the source.

If shops in your neighbourhood  are selling banned crackers, call the police.  Remember that it is easier to control this nuisance at the point of origin rather than after the damage has been done and the incriminating evidence blows up.

 

What happens when the police fail to respond?

The answer is simple- escalate your campaign.  If the sub-inspector on duty refuses to act, see the station inspector, if the station inspector refuses to act, write to the Police Commissioner.   If police control room refuses to respond, call the Police Commissioner.  If you are worried that revealing your identity will make you vulnerable to local pressures, ask a friend who lives in the other end of town to complain on your behalf, or write to a concerned environmental group such as Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), Society for Clean Environment (SOCLEEN) or Association of Medical Consultants (addresses given at the end).

You will be surprised at the tremendous impact a letter to the Editor of any of the leading newspapers will have on the lethargic public machinery.

Form anti noise committees in your locality

When the nuisance is beyond tolerable limits and other means don’t work, file a writ petition in the High Court.  The above groups will be glad to help you in every way.  This method has been successful in the past.  Once there is a court order the police are bound to act, or face contempt of court.

Contact your local MP/MLA/Councilor and bring to his notice the harmful effects of noise as well as your own particular problem.  Write to Department of Environment, Government of India, as well as State Environment Department.

 
Other ways in which you can help

If you are interested in helping others besides helping yourselves, are you prepared to spare your time or your money or both?  If the answer is yes, then please write to BEAG.

 
Decibels (dB)

A decibel is a logarithm of the radio of the sound pressure experienced to the reference pressure (which is the threshold of hearing). It is a unit for expressing the intensity of sound on a scale from zero (for the average least perceptible sound) to about 130 for the average pain level.  Even small values in dB levels mean large difference in terms of sound pressure.  For example the sound pressure at 120 dB is a hundred times more than at 80 dB.  An increase of just 3 dB means there is doubling in sound pressure.

 
Relation between sound pressure and dB

0     10     20     30     40     50     60     70     80     90     100     110    120     130     140     dB

   100 birds        1,000         10,000          1,00,000          10,00,000         1,00,00,000
     singing      quiet room      typing           car horn          power drill     airplane taking off
                     library/study
 

 
REFERENCES

1. Report of the Committee apppointed by Hon. Justice Smt. Sujata Manohar on Noise Pollution (1986) (Distributed by Bombay Environmental Action Group, 4, Kurla Industrial Estate, Ghatkopar, Mumbai 400 086)
2. “Noise Pollution Survey of Bombay” – Scavenger April. 1982 and several other reports (SOCLEEN – Society for Clean Environment, 606E, Garden Resort, Sion Trombay Road, Chembur, Mumbai 400 071.
3. Calcutta High Court Judgement, 1996.
4. Karnataka High Court Judgement, 1996.
5. The Bombay Police Act, 1951.
6. The Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888.
7. Motor Vehicles Act, 1939
8. The Cinematograph Act, 1952

 
USEFUL ADDRESSES:


Ms Sumaira Abdul Ali
Bombay Environmental Action Group
203 Rajendra Chambers,
19 Nanabhai Lane
MUMBAI  400 001
    sumairaabdulali@rediffmail.com

Dr Y T Oke
Association of Medical Consultants
Ganapathi Niwas, Andheri (E),
MUMBAI 400 069
    yeshwantoke@yahoo.com

Prof (Dr) Laxmi Vyas
Society for Clean Environment
606E Garden Resort, Sion Trombay Road,
Chembur, MUMBAI  400 071.
    ecopoint@rediffmail.com

 

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