MUMBAI: Daily construction and traffic noise in the city is causing more pollution than the loudspeakers used during festivals. These daily sounds though accepted as part of city life are taking a toll on the health of citizens, warned Sumaira Abdulali, convenor Awaaz Foundation.
Exposure to intense noise levels can cause personality changes and aggressiveness, affect work performance, cause sleep disturbances and changes in mental health, states World Health Organisation studies. Additionally it is also a known cause of stress related diseases such as blood pressure and heart problems.
Abdulali who has been fighting for implementation of anti-noise pollution rules said while awareness about the harmful effects of loudspeakers is well-known there is absolutely no concern being raised about the daily onslaught of noise owing to the increased construction activity in the city and the growing traffic snarls.
Honking is a punishable offence but citizens who are subjected to persistent honking rarely protest. In a response to a query under the Right to Information Act filed by activist Chetan Kothari, the traffic police have said that last year 7,794 cases were filed against various vehicle owners for honking while 528 cases were filed for musical horns that switch on while reversing. The latter often disturb entire neighbourhoods especially in the night when the person is parking the vehicle.
Abdulali who often records various noise decibels said the highest decibel for horns was 117db and these are being specially manufactured for India as there is a huge demand for loud horns.
"At a traffic junction during peak traffic, the noise level is never below 80-85 decibels. A horn makes a sound for a split second but there are so many drivers who continuously press the horn and the sound can be deafening," she said.
Traffic noise coupled with construction noise is a deadly cocktail in the city. In almost every plush building in the city all through the year there is at least one flat which is under renovation. The drilling, cutting sounds can reach up to 100dB. It is at a very high frequency which is intensely irritating and damages the speech understanding part of our hearing.
"If one is unfortunate to be in the vicinity of a redevelopment or construction project then one is exposed to sounds of piling which is also continuous and at a very high level. It interferes with normal activities like conversations on a phone," she said.