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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Now Running - Making Of Deaf Ears

The yearly Dahi Handi celebrations force local residents to temporarily vacate their houses and live at their relatives’ houses outside the locality. The residents of Worli in Mumbai are facing same nuisance by the Dahi Handi celebration by the minister of state environment department Sachin Ahir's Mandal. The noise pollution forced local residents to approach court. One can imagine how people are fade-up with the pollution during festivals if people even approaching courts to get respite from noise. People in Mumbai approached court but there are many in this city also who are facing the same problem. Nobody cares about them.

Noise pollution norms and public health and safety considerations — especially for the old, ailing, pregnant or very young — were clearly thrown to the wind, providing an ugly preview of things to come. Dahi Handi is set to be followed in quick succession by 10 days of Gannesh festival, nine nights of Navaratri, then Dassera and again Diwali!

However, it does not require a festival for the excessive use of loudspeakers. Every minor and major election victory, birth or death anniversary is celebrated by piling up loudspeakers on main roads and blurting out ear-shattering music.

Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) recently issued a notice to the Pune police commissioner seeking rigorous implementation of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 and the justice Sujata Manohar committee recommendations. The police departments response to that was not very exciting. Police saying that it is not physically possible to monitor noise levels at all pandals at all times, but assured that all complaints would be attended to.

During the Dahi Handi celebration not only were obscene songs being played at intolerable volumes, the piles of loudspeakers created such strong vibrations that passers-by could feel the thumping in their chests. If these were the noise levels in the day, the levels in the night, when the festival reaches a frenzy, could only be imagined.

If one goes through the brief overview of the scenario at the Dahi Handi celebrations, one can easily find the competition among the Mandals. The competition of highest number of loudspeakers, the loudest sound, the tallest Dahi handi and the biggest reward!

PMC and the Police department has the responsibility of curbing this menace but nothing great has been done for last few years. In the annual environment status report, PMC has admitted that sound pollution in the city has become severe, due to lack of sufficient regulations and public awareness. The ESR said the use of loud-speakers, fire-crackers, dhols and other musical instruments during festivals such as Diwali, Ganesh Festival, Dahi Handi and Navratra results in a significant increase in decibel levels.

While the state has instructed municipal corporations to include an action plan in the annual ESR to curb sound pollution in the city, the PMC has said in its report that noise levels will be effectively curbed if fines are imposed, for example on people using loud horns in silence zones. It has also suggested that silence zones should also be treated as no-vehicle zones.

Earlier, the noise pollution was only considered as nuisance. But studies established that now it is not just nuisance but it lefts some serious effects on human health and environment at large. One of the obvious and measurable effects of noise pollution is hearing loss While each individual is different in their tolerance to noise, length of exposure and decibel level, temporary or permanent hearing loss can occur.

However, a more difficult to measure, but increasingly significant health hazard, is the stress and agitation that may occur from exposure to loud noise. Persistent noise can increase stress levels, which in turn, can result in High blood pressure is an important health concern. Known as the "silent killer" because there are few obvious symptoms, it can result in serious health problems requiring medical assessment and intervention.

Sleep disruption is another common effect of loud and/or persistent noise. Lack of sleep or a disruption of the natural sleep cycle can result in poor concentration and performance, weight changes, and a general decrease in health and overall well being. The combination of stress and lack of sleep can also lead to frustration and aggravation. The social consequences include becoming short-tempered or potentially aggressive resulting in more accidents, poor familial and social relationships, and poor work performance.

The most effective prevention against the health effects of environmental noise pollution is to reduce noise at the source. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) (Amendment) Rules, 2010, are part of the government’s efforts to make cities less noisy and nights peaceful for residents, in keeping with the Supreme Court’s directives issued from time to time.

According to these rules, the use of construction machines, musical instruments, bursting of noise-emitting firecrackers and horns beyond permissible limits at nights in residential areas has been made punishable offences, attracting seven years of imprisonment or a penalty of Rs 1 lakh.

Last year, MPCB monitored noise pollution at 20 points in the city for five days during Ganeshotsav. During this period, the highest level of noise was recorded at the Dagdusheth Ganpati Chowk, at 95.9 decibels on August 31. And the lowest was 63.5 decibels, near Babu Genu Mandal on September 3.

Highest recorded noise level (in decible)During (30Aug to 3 Sep 2009)

Shivajinagar 82.5

Karve road 83.6

Swargate 83.6

Satara road 81.5

Yerawada 78.4

Laxmi road-87.6

Kothrud- 84.1

Mandai 75.5

Sarasbaug 79.4

Hadapsar- 83.4

Deccan 85.9

Dagadu sheth temple - 95.9

Alka chowk- 92.5

Babu genu 81.4

Khadki0 69.9

M.G. Road- 79.4

Chapekar Chowk 87.9

Pimprigaon - 81.9

Thergaon -81.1

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