Horn not OK please for traffic constables

20 Apr 2017, Mumbai (Hindustan Times)

DROWNED OUT HT speaks to police personnel, who are the victims of our penchant for unnecessary honking

Amid the cacophony over the use of loudspeakers sparked by a tweet by singer Sonu Nigam, Mumbai’s most pervasive source of noise pollution – unnecessary honking – is being drowned out.

As Mumbaiites, we have become masters of tuning out that which is practically ubiquitous out of sheer necessity. And while many of us – Nigam included – have the luxury of spending the majority of our days ensconced in air-conditioned comfort, whether at work or at home, this is not a privilege accorded to countless Mumbaiites, least of all traffic police, whose jobs require them to stand at busy junctions for hours, enduring incessant and often unnecessary honking.

The toll this can take far exceeds the fleeting jolt of irritation or anger that you may have experienced from brief exposure to loud or incessant honking or, as in Nigam’s case, an unwelcome wake-up call.

In 2016, the police registered a record 13,883 cases and imposed 816 penalties for honking-related violations such as the use of pressure horns, musical horns and ‘reverse horns’ . The Central Pollution Control Board named Mumbai the noisiest city in India in a study last year.

Cracking down to violators has done little to deter those who insist on using horns without thought or consideration, according to cops who have spent countless hours manning junctions and paid for it with their health.

Sadam Beldar, senior inspector with the Nagpada traffic division, says it is struggle to find even a moment of peace.

Even as he spoke to HT over the phone, the familiar cacophony of a typically busy traffic junction was came through loud and clear. “The biggest problem is peak hours,” Beldar said, “People honk unnecessarily. A horn is meant to alert other motorists, not to ask them to let you go ahead. But in Mumbai, people honk as soon as the light turns green.”

For some, the constant expose has taken a physical toll.

A 32-year-old constable posted at Mohammed Ali Road said, “There is ringing in my ears even after I leave the junction. I cannot hear my wife when she calls me from the other room.”

A constable with the Worli traffic division, said, “It is the bikers who honk the most while they zigzag their way through stationary traffic.”

Another constable, formerly with the Vakola traffic division, now works out of Versova police station.

“This is better than trying to manage traffic,” he said, asking not to be named.

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Trees near Flora Fountain poisoned: Experts

20 Apr 2017,Mumbai (Hindustan Times)

MUMBAI Two fully grown Portia trees (Thespesia populnea) near Hutatma Chowk (Flora Fountain) that have dried up recently could have been poisoned, an environment group has said.

HT PHOTO The dried up trees in front of the Ismail building.

The trees — located in front of the neo-classical four-storey Ismail building that was restored last year — have mysteriously dried up while the remaining trees in the area have their foliage intact. The building will soon house a major Spanish clothing store.

NGO Vanashakti filed a complaint with the municipal corporation, state environment department and police on Tuesday, alleged that the trees could have been poisoned during the restoration work. “The purpose of damaging the trees was to improve the visibility of the building,” said Stalin D, project director, Vanashakti. “After speaking to the civic body’s tree department, we were told that one of the trees was dead. However, all the trees are alive and are desperately trying to recover.”

Stalin urged the civic body to act immediately and ensure that the trees grow back. “We are not asking for action to be taken against the violators since it is a wasted exercise and the BMC will file FIR against unknown people. We are requesting the civic body to water the trees properly before they die,” he said.

Experts said that foul play cannot be ruled out. “The Thespesia populnea is a native tree to coastal areas and is a hardy tree that does not dry up easily. If the roots of the tree come in contact with saline water then there are chances of drying. However, if that was the case all trees at the site would have had the same result,” said Marselin Almeida, expert botanist.

“There needs to be a proper study and unlawful activities need to be checked by the police,” he added.

Municipal officers said that they had already alerted the police about the issue. “We have written to the tree department and lodged a complaint with the local police to check with experts. They have not got back to us,” said an official from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s A ward.

The conservation architect who restored Ismail building, which is listed as a grade IIA protected structure under municipal heritage rules, refused to comment regarding the issue.