Louder ambulance sirens can kill patients in Mumbai, say activistsMumbai city news: Officials from the state environment ministry said no changes can be made to the order nowMUMBAI Updated: Jul 08, 2017 09:57 IST
Traffic experts said louder sirens will not help ambulances reach their destination faster.(HT FILE)
Anti-noise activists have objected to the state government’s recent decision to increase decibel levels for ambulance sirens to 110 to 120 decibel from the existing limit of 65 to 75 decibels. They said this move can make ambulance sirens as loud as a thunderclap, sound of a chain saw or that of a packed sports stadium.
In a letter to the state environment minister and the ministry, Awaaz Foundation, an NGO, quoted international studies that indicate that it is unsafe for even healthy people to be exposed to 120dB for more than seven seconds. “It is far more dangerous for critically-ill patients to be exposed to such high noise levels,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation. “Exposure to such dangerously high noise in rickety ambulances without any sound insulation through the packed Mumbai traffic could even result in death of a patient struggling to receive medical care.”
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 are based on the World Health Organization Report on ‘Community Noise’, which states that areas around hospitals should be defined as silence zones.
Abdulali added that the noise is hazardous to the safety of patients inside the ambulance, to patients in hospitals and other silence zones along roads. “Noise adds to stress levels. It is dangerous to residents, including elderly people and children in areas from where the ambulance passes,” said Abdulali.
Officials from the state environment ministry said no changes can be made to the order now. “High noise levels are being used to get a person to a hospital faster. Since the vehicle is sealed, the sound levels inside the vehicle will be much lower than outside,” said Satish Gavai, additional chief secretary, state environment department. “ Modifications cannot be made to this anymore.”
Traffic experts said louder sirens will not help ambulances reach their destination faster. Ambulances are delayed by congested and narrow roads in the city and even if other motorists want ambulances to get their right of way, there will be delay. “The idea must have been for commuters to get alerted or actually irritated to give way to the ambulance but while this measure would have worked in other cities, it is useless for Mumbai,” said Ashok Datar, founder, Mumbai Environmental Social Network.
Awaaz Foundation's anti- noise pollution campaign has been covered extensively in the Press and media since 2003.