Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Mumbai celebrated its quietest Ganesh Chaturthi in 18 years, according to an observational noise monitoring exercise carried out by city-based advocacy group Awaaz Foundation on September 19. Noise levels during the final day of celebrations this year touched a high of 93.1 decibels (dB) as opposed to 100.7dB during the entire breadth of festivities in 2020, suggests a report released by Awaaz Foundation on Monday.The highest noise levels recorded over the past 18 years touched 123.7dB in 2015 followed by 123.2dB in 2013. Awaaz Foundation has been monitoring noise pollution in the city around key festivals, of which Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations see decibels at their highest, since 2003. This year, however, surveyors observed a low number of egregious violations, including loudspeakers and processions accompanied by drums and sound-systems, at key locations between 7pm and 10pm on Sunday, including Khar Danda, Worli Naka, Haji Ali, Girgaum Chowpatty and Shivaji Park.“Thanks to arrangements made by the police and with cooperation of Ganpati mandals… noise levels were lower than 2020, making it the quietest in 18 years since Awaaz Foundation began recording noise levels,” the group said in their report, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times. The report goes on to highlight the absence of loudspeakers, noisy instruments and firecrackers during the recently concluded festivities. In 2019 — the last year when Ganesh Chaturthi festivities were held without pandemic restrictions, noise levels on the last day of celebrations had touched as much 121.3dB, as opposed to the acceptable threshold for human ears of 70dB.The sound of ambient traffic ranges between 70dB and 80dB and is considered to be “loud”, while 120dB is closer to the sound a commercial airliner makes while taking off and is considered to be “very loud”. The human threshold for pain is marked at 130dB, over and above which even incidental exposure to loud noises can cause lasting damage to hearing. Prolonged exposure to noise levels around 120dB can also cause lasting hearing damage, in addition to increasing blood pressure and triggering headaches.Construction tools, car horns, bulldozers typically occupy the range between 90dB and 120dB. In comparison, every day conversational speech has a decibel level of about 60dBs.According to norms, noise levels in “silence zones” cannot exceed 50dB during the day and 40dB after 10pm. In residential areas, the levels are set at 55dB during the day and 45dB after 10 pm, and in commercial zones, the levels are capped at 65dB during the day and 55dB after 10 pm.On Sunday, the lowest noise levels were recorded near Atria Mall in Worli, at 76dB. The noises were attributed mainly to ambient sources such as traffic. The average decibel level ranged between 75 and 85dB.During the Foundation’s survey in 2020, noise pollution levels during Ganesh Chaturthi were recorded as low as 53dB, while the average level ranged between 65 and 75dB.“This indicates that while noise from festivities remained subdued for a second consecutive year, other sources of noise, mainly traffic, are much higher now, after falling drastically during the lockdown in 2020,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation. Abdulali, however, also emphasised that the survey carried out by her group was an informal, unstructured one, and the data was gathered in an arbitrary manner based on the discretion of the surveying team.“Our studies are not as comprehensive as that of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), but they are a valuable indicator of the situation on ground. The pollution control board should be able to verify this more accurately,” she added. MPCB, meanwhile, is yet to release data from their annual noise monitoring survey this year.