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 Make a noise, before it’s too late

13 Jun 2016, Mumbai (Hindustan Times)

FOR YOUR EARS ONLY Authorities as well as citizens need to unite to make Mumbai, which is currently the noisiest city in the country, a quieter place, say experts

MUMBAI: In 2007, anti-noise crusader Awaaz Foundation, in a public interest litigation, highlighted how the measures taken by the state and central machinery to keep a check on noise pollution from traffic and construction activities in the city were inadequate. Nine years later, too, the scenario hasn’t changed much – a recent four year-long study by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) rated Mumbai as the country’s noisiest city.

Those living near busy roads and construction sites in the city are hoping that the PIL, seeking stringent rules to curb noise pollution in the city which will come up for hearing on Friday, will offer them relief. “During peak hours, we are forced to keep our doors and windows shut to keep out the noise from sirens, horns and motorbikes,” said Shyama Kulkarni, 69, who lives with her husband near Bandra’s busy Perry Road junction.

The couple said the decibel level of the noise from the traffic outside their house is 110dB, twice the permissible limit for residential areas. “Even after filing several complaints, the police have not taken steps to reduce the noise level at this junction,” she said.

While car drivers who honk recklessly and bikers refusing to install silencers are a problem, poor implementation of the anti-noise laws, too, is an issue that needs to be looked into. “Mumbai is said to be the third noisiest city in the world. The petitioners seek the strict implementation and enforcement of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, in order to curb traffic and construction noise,” reads the petition filed by Awaaz Foundation.

After the PIL was filed, the state, between 2007 and 2010, commissioned noise barriers, noise mapping studies and change in policy, including a draft of rules for firecrackers, and notified the silence zones in Mumbai. The petition, however, has not come up for hearing since 2010.

“The PIL raises important aspects of noise control in Mumbai. No progress has been made towards solving any of these issues, which were acute in 2007, and have worsened in the intervening time,” said petitioner Sumaira Abdulali.

“The idea of such PILs is to keep the regulatory authority in check. While the law makers have done a good job by setting strict rules, the police need to ensure its implementation,” said Dr Mahesh Bedekar, an activist, who had filed a PIL in the HC in 2010, complaining about lack of compliance of regulations during festivals.

A reply from the Mumbai police to a right to information (RTI) query filed earlier this month – reported by HT -- revealed the commissioner’s office and two Andheri police stations had no idea about the relaxation of deadline for the use of loudspeakers, drums and public address systems up to 12am for 15 days a year, mostly during festivals. “The authorities need to know the law of the land. It is a serious problem if there is no deterrence,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation who filed the RTI.

“We appeal to the citizens not to unnecessarily honk near schools, residential areas and hospitals. Motorists should bear the decibel limit in mind,” said Sunil Paraskar, additional commissioner of police (traffic).

Officials from the civic body said as part of an ongoing noise mapping study across 1,200 locations in Mumbai, data from 650 locations has been collected. “We will stop the work as the monsoon commences. However, the data collection will resume in December. By January 2017, we will receive the final report, after which we will take the needed action,” said a BMC official.