Noise Pollution: Delhi
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The position in Delhi
Loudspeakers for religious purposes: See graphic.
Delhi: low enforcement
Noise annoys not only those living in areas where religious or social events such as weddings are organised, but also the cops.Police have to attend to 80-100 complaints about the use of high-decibel loudspeakers beyond the hours permitted.However, only a handful of violators are eventually booked: till date only eight individuals have been hauled up for violating the noise norms this year, while 22 were penalised in the whole 2016.
One-third of the complaints last year related to violations beyond midnight, another third to the post-1am period. In 2005, the Supreme Court permitted the use of loudspeakers till 10pm, while setting the limit for noise levels in residential areas at 55 decibels.
Of course, even the complaints logged with them comprise only a tenth of the actual violations, admit police.Most people stoically suffer the loud sound, especially if the occasion is religious or matrimonial.
“We do comply with the rule that all programmes have to stop after midnight,“ claimed Satish Manchanda, who runs a troupe that has been organising jagrans in central and east Delhi for two decades. “But,“ he added, “people seldom object to religious functions. There is a difference between decent songs and loud noise.“
Randeep Singh, a disc jockey and show conductor in a south Delhi event management firm, disclosed that the consoles they used actually have sound meters to monitor the output. “However, towards the end of the events, the organisers, especially of religious functions, demand loud music and we have to comply ,“ Singh said.
On regular days, police receive the most complaints from east and north-east Delhi. West Delhi tops the list in the festive season. Once a complaint call is logged, a PCR team or the local police reach the venue, but as a police officer shrugged, they can “only request the organisers to wind down“.
Delhi Police does have 15 noise meters, but these are deployed only in specific areas. Police officers also claimed that people almost always turn down the volume when they see the cops arriving and up the tempo after they leave.
The cops can book violators for noise pollution under the Environment Protection Act, where the minimum penalty for violation of any of its provision is an imprisonment for a term of five years or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, or both. If the offenders do not challenge the charges, they can get away by paying Rs 5,000.
The causes and extent of the problem
Noise pollution seems to be largely on the decline in the city, both during the day and night, according to the yearly average ambient noise data gathered since 2015 from five real-time noise monitoring stations. RK Puram in southwest Delhi, however, has been recording an increase in noise pollution both in the day and at night. Among the 21 new noise monitoring stations installed by Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Karol Bagh has emerged the noisiest location, while Najafgarh and Alipur are the least noisy.
Delhi had for long had five noise monitoring stations at Anand Vihar, Civil Lines, Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh and RK Puram, all of them under DPCC. It was only last year that 21 new noise monitoring stations were set up across the city in order to better assess the noise levels.
DPCC data from 2015 shows that Anand Vihar had an annual daytime ambient noise decibel average of 67.8 dB(A) that year. However, this dropped to 65.6 dB(A) by 2019. In 2020, it further fell to 61.4 dB(A), largely due to the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. Similarly, Civil Lines and Punjabi Bagh have shown a reduction in daytime noise levels over the years, falling from 62.9 and 63.4 dB(A), respectively, in 2015 to 61 and 58.3 dB(A), respectively, in 2019. While the noise at Mandir Marg has largely remained consistent, daytime noise pollution at RK Puram increased from 60.3 dB(A) in 2015 to 62.1 dB(A) in 2019.
The downward trend is similar at night, with Anand Vihar, Civil Lines, Punjabi Bagh and even Mandir Marg showing a reduction in noise levels over the years. While the decibel level in Punjabi Bagh dropped from 58.9 dB(A) in 2015 to 52.2 dB(A) in 2019, the fall is around 3 decibels at Civil Lines and 1-1.5 decibels at Anand Vihar and Mandir Marg. RK Puram, meanwhile, actually showed a gradual increase in night noise level, with the annual average in 2015 of 53.7 dB(A) going up to 56 dB(A) in 2019 and 56.9 in 2020 despite the lockdown curbing noise pollution.
Among the 26 noise stations, Karol Bagh recorded the highest daytime average noise levels in 2020 at 71.8 dB(A), followed by Dwarka at 64.2 dB(A). At night, Shahdara was the noisiest in 2020 at 64.6 dB(A), followed by Karol Bagh at 61 dB(A) and Narela at 59.3 dB (A). At night, the least noisy place in Delhi was Najafgarh with a measure of 49.3 dB(A), followed closely by Alipur at 49.5 dB(A). The positions were reversed during the day, with Alipur the least noisy location in Delhi at 51.6 dB(A), followed by Najafgarh at 52.5 dB(A).
While vehicular traffic may largely be the reason for high noise levels at RK Puram, DPCC officials were unable to explain the increase in noise pollution over the years. “We analyse the data and based on this information, we carry out periodical checks in such locations to identify noise level violations,” said one official.
The position in Delhi, April 2017
Loudspeakers for religion, social events: the position in Delhi, April 2017
The position in June 2017
Experts Warn Of Health Hazards As Much Of The City Fails To Meet Safe Standards
While the poor air quality in Delhi has pushed authorities to at least announce some action plans, the government seems least concerned about noise pollution, which has severe physiological and psychological impacts. Of late, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has started displaying decibel levels in real time and most stations in the city are far from meeting standards.
TOI looked at 24-hour average noise levels (LAE) or sound exposure levels between June 1and June 7 at Anand Vihar, East Arjun Nagar, Civil Lines, ITO, RK Puram and Punjabi Bagh. RK Puram and Punjabi Bagh--categorised as “quiet area“ and “residential area“, respectively--recorded more than 65 dBa on most days.
Noise Pollution Rules 2010 recommend a standard of 65 dBa for day and 55 dBa for night in commercial areas. In residential colonies, the levels should be 55 dBa for day and 45 dba for night. If the noise level exceeds the standards by 10 dBA at any location, it can be recorded as a “violation“ and penalised by the authority concerned.
For example, if there is excessive honking, traffic cops can impose a fine of Rs 100. Ironically, Delhi traffic police don't have the equipment to monitor noise at intersections.But the noise pollution problem in the capital is far larger than just some random honking cases. CPCB's `Status of Ambient Noise Levels in India' for 2015-16 had highlighted that locations like ITO, Delhi Technological University (DTU) on Bawana Road and NSIT, Dwarka didn't meet noise standards all year round.Former environment mini ster Anil Madhav Dave had informed the Rajya Sabha recently that 70 monitoring stations in Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru were monitoring noise levels and “the data from these monitoring stations indicate that average noise pollution levels generally exceed the permissible limits“.
Despite such a trend, both civil society organisations and the government continue to maintain silence over the matter. Some experts say the noise pollution guidelines are “flawed.“ “The guidelines should specify whether they are meant for 24-hour average or levels in real time.Due to lack of clarity , authorities tend to interpret the norms in their own ways,“ said a government scientist.
According to Nasim Akhtar, a senior scientist at Central Road Research Institute, heavy vehicles are responsible for a major part of the noise pollution in Delhi.“One truck causes as much noise as 7-8 cars. In addition, every time there is an increase in noise by 10 dBa, the loudness is doubled. This affects people's health. While our guidelines are similar to those in Europe, residential areas in European cities are 200 to 300 metres away from the road. There is also a buffer zone between the road and houses in those cities. In India, people are exposed directly to road noise,“ he said.
Akhtar wondered why noise pollution, unlike air pollu tion, was not treated as a health hazard when there is enough evidence showing its impact on health. The rules for silence zones (100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions, courts, religious places) are violated everywhere. Akhtar explained that the problem of noise from banquet halls or religious ceremonies was hardly anything compared to that from traffic.CPCB scientists said an “action plan“ was prepared following their 2015-16 report, but it's yet to be made available in the public domain.
WHO guidelines recommend less than 30 dBA in bedrooms for a good night's sleep and less than 35 dBA in classrooms to allow ideal teaching and learning conditions. According to Dr Salabh Sharma, an ENT consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, there is no adequate data yet to establish whether noise pollution alone is behind increasing cases of partial and full hearing loss.“But we are seeing a rise in such cases in the past 15 years...Noise pollution damages the hair cells inside the cochlear. These problems are also being seen among relatively younger people. This can have adverse effects at a subconscious level, resulting in irritation and tiredness,“ he said.
26 Stns In City To Monitor Noise Levels
Shahdara was the noisiest location in Delhi, breaching the 60 db (A) mark for more than 91% of the time in the month of June. It was followed by Dwarka, Lajpat Nagar and Karol Bagh wherein a reading between 60 and 70 db(A) was recorded for more than 60% of the time, a report submitted by Delhi Pollution Control Committee to the National Green Tribunal states.
The report also informs the NGT that Delhi’s noise monitoring network has now increased to 26 stations, which will be used to cover all four categories – silence zones, residential zones, commercial zones and industrial zones.
Data analysed from all 26 locations in the month of June revealed that ambient noise levels at silence zones, residential zones and commercial zones exceeded the prescribed standards. Industrial zones, where the limit is set the highest, were the only zones in which the values were being adhered to, the report stated.
Among the locations recording the least amount of noise were Alipur, Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, Najafgarh and National Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases at Aurobindo Marg, which recorded more than 30% of the monitored hours in June to be ranging between 40 and 50 dB (A). All locations were found to be getting impacted by vehicular noise as the primary source. However, inspections at each location will also be carried out to ascertain sources of noise pollution that may be specific to the area.
“Analysis of hourly data shows that the range varied from 40 db(A) to 70 db(A) in different land-use areas of Delhi. The short term data, compared with prescribed standards, shows that ambient noise levels exceed the prescribed standards in silence, residential and commercial zones. In industrial zones, the noise level meets the prescribed standards,” said the report.
“Though in general, it seems the primary source is vehicular noise. However, a survey of nearby areas of these stations will be undertaken for the identification of sources to develop a customised action plan for each location,” the report added.
Until last year, DPCC only had five noise monitors across the capital, which it admits was not adequately representing the four categories of land-use areas in Delhi. For further ground visits, DPCC said teams had already been formulated, while handheld devices would be used to identify problem locations.
“Handheld integrating-averaging sound meters have been provided to the inspecting teams to enable them to identify local sources of noise emission. Based on the reports by the inspecting teams, further action will be taken as a constant process,” said DPCC, adding that it now plans to analyse data every week and make it available to authorities for further action.
DJs to be granted under the rules: SC, 2019
Bringing more disc jockeys (DJs) within the purview of its interim order allowing them to perform at marriages and social functions in Uttar Pradesh, SC on Wednesday asked the state government to consider their plea for permission to perform. The Allahabad HC had on August 20, imposed a blanket ban on DJ services terming the noise generated by them as “unpleasant” and of “obnoxious level”.
But the apex court had on October 14 stayed the operation of the order while hearing plea of some of the aggrieved DJs and asked the state government to grant them permission under the rules. As the interim relief was confined to the petitioners, a separate batch of DJs approached the apex court for similar relief. TNN