Over the past decade, India has tried to get quieter, but is it working? Noise pollution is still a severe problem in India and may have harmful consequences on human health over time. Noise regulations were introduced in India about a decade ago, setting noise limits in industrial, commercial and residential areas, with stiff fines for offenders. Despite this, there is still little awareness or care about the dangers of noise pollution by many who live there. Because of a lack of manpower to enforce the laws or vested interests of politicians or the so called powerful lobby, noise legislation is not enforced effectively some experts claim.
India is the seventh largest country by area and the second most populous country with more than 1.2 billion people. Since 1991, continuing economic liberation has moved the country towards a market-based economy. By 2008, India had established itself as one of the world's fastest growing economies.
Some of the general noise problems in India include:
- Industrial and construction activities
- Traffic noise
- Automotive traffic and honking of horns
- Fire crackers
- Generator sets
- Loud speakers
- Music systems.
Air and road traffic in India and many developing countries have increased at amazingly rapid rates. While they may be symbols of growth and prosperity their engines have raised the noise levels in and above many cities. Aviation noise are among the biggest contributors to noise pollution. Then there is the cumulative impact of powerful music systems (personal and conventional) and noise within the home (loud music and television for instance) that are increasingly becoming the source of many noise related ailments.
For some countries, including India, celebrations and festivities mean escalation of noise. Fire crackers and loudspeakers add to traffic noises which reverberate through crowded housing colonies, causing one of the world’s least recognised public health hazards – noise pollution. Infants, elderly and those who are ill are most vulnerable to noise pollution.
India’s Noise Control Regulatory Measures
India’s Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 considers noise pollution an air pollutant. In 2000, the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules set ambient air quality standards in respect of noise (in decibels, dB) for industrial, commercial and residential areas and silence zones. They also direct state governments to undertake measures for “abatement of noise” resulting from vehicular movements and horns, fire crackers and loud speakers or public address systems, and to ensure that noise levels do not exceed the permissible limits.
The Supreme Court of India gave a significant verdict on noise pollution in 2005. Unnecessary honking of vehicles makes for a high decibel level of noise in cities. The use of loudspeakers for political purposes and for sermons by temples and mosques makes noise pollution in residential areas worse.
Watch this Video News Broadcast About India's Noise Laws
In January 2010, Government of India published norms of permissible noise levels in urban and rural areas:
Source: Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India
Civil organizations have combated noise pollution by taking up the matter to local development authorities or by taking legal recourse. Indian judiciary has sought to provide respite to tormented petitioners through a number of judgments. For example, the Supreme Court has banned the use of loudspeakers and “bursting sound-emitting” fire crackers between 10 pm and 6 am. Nevertheless, the issue of noise pollution is unrelentingly grave. This is primarily because of poor law enforcement, owing to the absence of accountability for police and civic administration almost across the country, and the lack of civic sense among people.
The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests launched the Real Time Ambient Noise Monitoring Network in 2011 to address the lack of real-time data. Under its first phase, automatic monitoring stations were set up in seven cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Lucknow. The data received from these stations showed that the noise levels were far above permissible limits. For example, commercial areas reported 93 dB in breach of the 65 dB limit, whereas the entire city of Chennai reported noise levels at over 100 dB, prompting an article in the Times of India (April 27, 2011) to equate living in Chennai with “living in a factory!”
India’s Loudest Cities
Indian cities are known to be pretty noisy. According to one estimate, Mumbai is one of the noisiest cities on earth battered day and night by cars, taxis, auto rickshaws horn, factory noise, construction work, etc. Outside noise levels there are at a constant 80-85 decibels which is considered twice the safe levels determined by the World Health Organization (W.H.O). Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million. Along with the neighboring urban areas, including the cities of Navi Mumbai and Thane, it is one of the most populous urban regions in the world. Mumbai was the site of terrorist attacks in 2008. In Mumbai and Calcutta, local court orders on the use of loudspeakers, firecrackers and horns have been implemented fairly successfully.
Get a feel for traffic noise in Mumbai by watching this video someone made of them walking up Station Road, Santa Cruz in Mumbai
In Delhi, as reported by India Today (November 4, 2012), the noise level is 16 times higher than the prescribed limit, mostly because of the “unregulated and overloaded” trucks, sparing not even the patients in AIIMS and Safdarjang Hospital. In the Capital and other parts of the country, operation of factories in residential areas is another source of day-to-day distress, especially affecting the students and ailing residents.
Harmful Effects of Excessive Noise Exposure
Auditory damage from excessive noise was known hundred years of ago but only few people were exposed to excessive noise. The position changed rapidly with the advent of power-driven machinery. Today, noise has become omnipresent. The W.H.O. estimates that 120 million people world wide have hearing difficulties. The W.H.O. underlines that loud noise can create high blood pressure problems and mental health issues. Health experts argue noise pollution in India is a major cause of heart attacks and other stress related illnesses.
The following are some general health problems produced by constant loud noise:
- High blood pressure: Studies have found that people who live near a noisy airport, work in a noisy environment, or hear over 55 decibels of city traffic noise at night are at higher risk of high blood pressure.
- Trouble sleeping: Noise can make it tough to sleep.
- Emotional effects: The stress caused by noise can make mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, distress, and irritability.
- Decrease in the ability to concentrate.
- Hearing loss
- Poor school performance: Children in school do not perform as well in a noisy environment.
- Mental fatigue
- Headaches: Noise can trigger headaches in some people.
- Discomfort to patients in hospitals.
- May reduce efficiency and output of employees in the workplace.
Soundproofing Material Can Help Bring Tranquility Back to Your Home
There are many soundproofing materials that can be used to mitigate the noise coming in from the outside of your residence. One of the most effective materials on the market is Acoustiblok soundproofing material.
Adding a 3mm (1/8 inch) layer of the UL-approved Acoustiblok material increases a standard stud wall’s soundproofing factor by more than 98-percent and can result in more sound reduction than 12-inches of poured concrete. While other materials attempt to “stop” or “absorb” sound, Acoustiblok does neither. As the heavy, limp Acoustiblok material vibrates from the sound, it actually “transforms” the acoustical energy into “inaudible friction energy” in a process referred to as “isothermal adiabatic.” Lead, previously considered the best soundproofing, works on precisely the same basis and has exactly the same Sound Transmission Classification (STC) sound reduction rating. This material has been featured on some Do-It-Yourself Television Network shows in the United States. This materials has been in use for more than a decade across the world and has proven to be effective at reducing noise inside residential and commercial buildings. Acoustiblok material was named was a "Best Products" award winner in Builder News Magazine.
Click on the following video to see how easily Acoustiblok can be installed inside your walls.
In an existing structure, other soundproofing materials are available that can create a quieter environment inside your home or residence. One of these materials is called Acoustiblok-Wallcover. This material can provide tranquility in the study or nursery when the television or home theater is at full volume in the adjacent room. Any room in the house can become a sanctuary with Acoustiblok Wallcover, so piano practice in the music room won’t interfere with reading or quiet conversation in the bedroom. For business and professional associations that must provide private conference and meeting rooms, Acoustiblok Wallcover is a perfect solution for preventing conversations from being heard in adjacent rooms. Attorneys, physicians, and law enforcement agencies must be able to provide private, soundproof rooms to assure client confidentiality and to protect sensitive information discussed during corporate meetings.
Acoustiblok Wallcover’s flexible material measures approximately ¼ of an inch thick, and is available in 4-foot by 8-foot sections. Weighing about one pound per square foot, Acoustiblok Wallcover is fairly heavy, which is why it takes two or three people to install. A simple box cutter is all that is needed to create cutouts for electric sockets and light switch panels. The material can be painted to match the decor of any room.
Mr.R.R.Nair, Noise Pollution - Critical Overview; Industrial Safety Review, India's Leading Monthly Magazine on Fire Safety & Electronic Security Industry.Sept, 2012
Romi Jain, author - Global Views
DIY Television Network, USA
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION? COULD NOISE LEVELS AND HIGH STRESS LEVELS WOMEN IN INDIA BE RELATED?