With few days remaining for Ganeshotsav, the State Government has proposed a relaxation against the recent direction by the Bombay High Court dealing with the ban on loud speakers in silence zones. While this order has been welcomed by several Mumbaikars, activists are opposing the State’s government’s proposal to woo Ganpati Mandals by allowing them to play loudspeakers during the festival. It was only last month when the High Court had reiterated that noise producing instruments like loudspeakers, amplifiers, drums should not be used in silence zones of the city. Silence Zones are defined under the Noise Pollution rules as areas within 100 meters of sensitive places like hospitals, courts, educational institutions and religious places where people need an extra level of protection. In 2005 too, the Supreme Court had stated that no loudspeakers could be used in silence zones at any time. However, the State Government has allowed the loudspeakers to be used during festivals in permissible limits till now and have further approached the Centre Government to dilute the High Court order for festivals. The move came after The Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS) had approached the State Chief Minister asking for relief from the restrictions laid down by the High Court.
Where the noise decibels are expected to be maximum 55 dB as per the orders of the High Court, earlier reports have indicated that during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Dahi Handi and Mahim Fair, the noise levels even in the silence zones have soared till 100 decibels. In an effort to shed light upon the elevating noise pollution in the city NGOs and other social organizations work for a peaceful living during festivities. While noise pollution is a continuous hazard due to traffic and other noise sources, it peak effects are felt during the festival season when loudspeakers are often used in the sensitive areas of silence zones, adversely affecting the health of patients, the elderly, infants, and ill persons. Our studies indicate that the noise levels from loudspeakers in the festival season touch a peak level. We have also found that the noise level when loudspeakers are used can never be within the statutory level required for ensuring a healthy life, especially for those who are already vulnerable and it is time to rethink the concerns of the people.
Noise pollution has been acknowledged as one of the most major pollutants affecting the health of crores of citizens. Mumbai is officially the noisiest city in India. Its effects are felt throughout the human body and cause hearing loss, mental health and heart disease and affects every single organ of the body according to medical studies. The noise rules were formulated for enforcement of decibel levels which were passed in Parliament as a part of the Environment Protection Act 1986. The decibel level restrictions, derived from a World Health Organization Report “Community Noise” 1986 acknowledge the environmental harm caused by noise pollution and mandate the need to restrict them to within specified limits. The Noise Pollution rules and Statute have been upheld by the Supreme Court of India as a Constitutional right of citizens to enjoy peaceful life under Article 21. Even Senior citizens and newly born babies are being troubled by the high level of noise pollution. It is time to impose restrictions rather than relaxing the norms for the benefit of the certain sections of the society.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)