Noise Pollution: Delhi
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The position in Delhi
Loudspeakers for religious purposes: See graphic.
Delhi: low enforcement
Noise annoys not only those living in areas where religious or social events such as weddings are organised, but also the cops.Police have to attend to 80-100 complaints about the use of high-decibel loudspeakers beyond the hours permitted.However, only a handful of violators are eventually booked: till date only eight individuals have been hauled up for violating the noise norms this year, while 22 were penalised in the whole 2016.
One-third of the complaints last year related to violations beyond midnight, another third to the post-1am period. In 2005, the Supreme Court permitted the use of loudspeakers till 10pm, while setting the limit for noise levels in residential areas at 55 decibels.
Of course, even the complaints logged with them comprise only a tenth of the actual violations, admit police.Most people stoically suffer the loud sound, especially if the occasion is religious or matrimonial.
“We do comply with the rule that all programmes have to stop after midnight,“ claimed Satish Manchanda, who runs a troupe that has been organising jagrans in central and east Delhi for two decades. “But,“ he added, “people seldom object to religious functions. There is a difference between decent songs and loud noise.“
Randeep Singh, a disc jockey and show conductor in a south Delhi event management firm, disclosed that the consoles they used actually have sound meters to monitor the output. “However, towards the end of the events, the organisers, especially of religious functions, demand loud music and we have to comply ,“ Singh said.
On regular days, police receive the most complaints from east and north-east Delhi. West Delhi tops the list in the festive season. Once a complaint call is logged, a PCR team or the local police reach the venue, but as a police officer shrugged, they can “only request the organisers to wind down“.
Delhi Police does have 15 noise meters, but these are deployed only in specific areas. Police officers also claimed that people almost always turn down the volume when they see the cops arriving and up the tempo after they leave.
The cops can book violators for noise pollution under the Environment Protection Act, where the minimum penalty for violation of any of its provision is an imprisonment for a term of five years or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, or both. If the offenders do not challenge the charges, they can get away by paying Rs 5,000.
The causes and extent of the problem
The position in Delhi, April 2017
The position in June 2017
Experts Warn Of Health Hazards As Much Of The City Fails To Meet Safe Standards
While the poor air quality in Delhi has pushed authorities to at least announce some action plans, the government seems least concerned about noise pollution, which has severe physiological and psychological impacts. Of late, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has started displaying decibel levels in real time and most stations in the city are far from meeting standards.
TOI looked at 24-hour average noise levels (LAE) or sound exposure levels between June 1and June 7 at Anand Vihar, East Arjun Nagar, Civil Lines, ITO, RK Puram and Punjabi Bagh. RK Puram and Punjabi Bagh--categorised as “quiet area“ and “residential area“, respectively--recorded more than 65 dBa on most days.
Noise Pollution Rules 2010 recommend a standard of 65 dBa for day and 55 dBa for night in commercial areas. In residential colonies, the levels should be 55 dBa for day and 45 dba for night. If the noise level exceeds the standards by 10 dBA at any location, it can be recorded as a “violation“ and penalised by the authority concerned.
For example, if there is excessive honking, traffic cops can impose a fine of Rs 100. Ironically, Delhi traffic police don't have the equipment to monitor noise at intersections.But the noise pollution problem in the capital is far larger than just some random honking cases. CPCB's `Status of Ambient Noise Levels in India' for 2015-16 had highlighted that locations like ITO, Delhi Technological University (DTU) on Bawana Road and NSIT, Dwarka didn't meet noise standards all year round.Former environment mini ster Anil Madhav Dave had informed the Rajya Sabha recently that 70 monitoring stations in Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru were monitoring noise levels and “the data from these monitoring stations indicate that average noise pollution levels generally exceed the permissible limits“.
Despite such a trend, both civil society organisations and the government continue to maintain silence over the matter. Some experts say the noise pollution guidelines are “flawed.“ “The guidelines should specify whether they are meant for 24-hour average or levels in real time.Due to lack of clarity , authorities tend to interpret the norms in their own ways,“ said a government scientist.
According to Nasim Akhtar, a senior scientist at Central Road Research Institute, heavy vehicles are responsible for a major part of the noise pollution in Delhi.“One truck causes as much noise as 7-8 cars. In addition, every time there is an increase in noise by 10 dBa, the loudness is doubled. This affects people's health. While our guidelines are similar to those in Europe, residential areas in European cities are 200 to 300 metres away from the road. There is also a buffer zone between the road and houses in those cities. In India, people are exposed directly to road noise,“ he said.
Akhtar wondered why noise pollution, unlike air pollu tion, was not treated as a health hazard when there is enough evidence showing its impact on health. The rules for silence zones (100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions, courts, religious places) are violated everywhere. Akhtar explained that the problem of noise from banquet halls or religious ceremonies was hardly anything compared to that from traffic.CPCB scientists said an “action plan“ was prepared following their 2015-16 report, but it's yet to be made available in the public domain.
WHO guidelines recommend less than 30 dBA in bedrooms for a good night's sleep and less than 35 dBA in classrooms to allow ideal teaching and learning conditions. According to Dr Salabh Sharma, an ENT consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, there is no adequate data yet to establish whether noise pollution alone is behind increasing cases of partial and full hearing loss.“But we are seeing a rise in such cases in the past 15 years...Noise pollution damages the hair cells inside the cochlear. These problems are also being seen among relatively younger people. This can have adverse effects at a subconscious level, resulting in irritation and tiredness,“ he said.