The need for national laws on honking
Honking is more than just a nuisance. Noise pollution has a direct and severe impact on health, resulting in deafness, heart disease and mental health issues for residents of most Indian cities. Honking in Silence Zones, near hospitals, schools, courts and religious places is particularly harmful and can even make the difference between life and death sometimes. The Supreme Court ruling of 2005 against noise pollution started with a news story about a 10 year old girl who was raped and whose cries for help could not be heard due to noise. A deaf school in Mumbai reports cases of infants exposed to firecrackers becoming permanently deaf. A case was brought to our notice where a senior citizen exposed to loud noise died of a heart attack shortly afterwards.
Indian laws do not restrict the decibel levels of horns permitted to be installed within vehicles but restrict only the use of horns in certain designated areas. The Rules are mostly ignored due to lack of awareness or willful defiance of Law, making Indian cities the noisiest in the world. In the absence of laws restricting decibel levels of horns, foreign car manufacturers are vying with each other to make noisier and nosier horns, often manufactured ‘extra loud’ for Indian imports.
Awaaz Foundation was a Member of a Committee appointed by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board to suggest maximum permissible decibel levels of horns. After consideration of our recommendations, the Central Pollution Control Board recommended maximum permissible levels for horns. We request your personal intervention to notify this recommendation and implement it for all vehicles nationally, including imported vehicles.
Noise mapping is being carried out in the city of Mumbai near some proposed road projects and around airports, to restrict noise levels. Due to excessively high noise levels, sound barriers have been built near some new road projects. There is a need for sound barriers on several other new infrastructure projects and a need to identify the location of these sound barriers. Other noise mitigation measures could also be proposed around other noisy sites including near railway lines, airports, entertainment and cultural venues.
Noise mapping is the established way to determine existing noise levels, project noise from new infrastructure projects and suggest mitigation measures. In the UK, NGO/Government partnerships like defra maintain noise maps using LIMA interactive software. Thee maps, easily accessible to citizens, policy makers and urban planners are a useful tool for determining noise levels at safe limts.
Awaaz Foundation requests that noise mapping should form a part of urban planning for all Indian cities, starting with major metropolitan areas like Mumbai and Delhi.
Designated space for noisy activities
Indian cities face a serious crisis in finding space for recreational, cultural and political activities. On the one hand, there is a legitimate need for conducting various open air concerts, cultural and religious festivals and political activities. On the other hand, cities are densely occupied by residential spaces and even more sensitive areas designated ‘Silence Zones’ like hospitals, educational institutions etc with a need to maintain quiet.
It would be useful to demarcate areas on the outskirts of these cities as designated venues for all such activities and to ensure that no residential or sensitive installations are allowed near these areas. This is a normal practice in many Western countries where concerts are held in designated open air venues away from the congested parts of the city. There is an urgent need to build these venues into urban planning during the next phase of development of Indian cities.
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