“The state is using its power to suppress people’s genuine concerns, instead of protecting their health. We have been fighting for it for almost two decades and everyone — from slum dwellers to the elite class in Mumbai — has supported us,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation. “Last year, the environment secretary and the Mumbai police commissioner thanked citizens for celebrating a quiet festival. The government move is extremely disappointing.”
“The state does not have the power to issue such an ordinance. Noise norms are framed by the Centre. Whenever the state has approached the Centre in such matters, they have been turned down. I hope good sense prevails and the CM rethinks his stand,” said Ashok Ravat, Shivaji Park resident, who filed a petition that made the area a silence zone.
Members of the Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), umbrella body of Ganesh mandals in the city, said on Thursday that Fadnavis promised there wouldn’t be any restrictions this year. “We requested the CM to allow us to use loudspeakers in silence zones and raise the height of human pyramids for dahi handi. We want the radius of silence zones to be reduced from 100m to 10m, so festivals can be celebrated without any hindrance,” said Naresh Dahibhavkar, president, BSGSS.
Dahibhavkar said the CM told them an amendment on noise rules couldn’t be issued as Ganeshotav was just 50 days away. “The state has requested the Centre to look into the matter. If they fail to make changes, the CM promised the state environment department would issue an ordinance to dilute noise norms.”
Last year, the Bombay high court banned the use of loudspeakers, drums, trumpets and playing music using sound amplifiers in silence zones during festive celebrations.
In August 2016, the Supreme Court upheld an HC order on banning those under 18 from dahi handi pyramids and restricting the height of pyramids to 20ft. “While 500 to 600 people used to get injured every year during dahi handi, after the SC order, only nine people were injured last year. The state can’t take such a risk. They are only consoling the mandals. We don’t expect any ordinance in violation of court orders,” said Swati Patil, secretary of Utkarsh Mahila Samajik Sanstha, who filed the petition.
Noise pollution not only leads to hearing loss but also can damage other organs and cause cardiac ailments, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Awaaz Foundation's anti- noise pollution campaign has been covered extensively in the Press and media since 2003.