Can You Believe That Noise Levels In A City Can Be This Damaging?
Mumbai: A random reading from four of the noisiest enclaves of the city shows that Mumbaikars are sitting on a powder keg of ear-splitting decibel levels. Constant exposure to loud sound is an inescapable reality in these locations, with no mechanism in place to control the blaring of horns that accompanies the rush of traffic.
On Thursday, an ordinary summer afternoon with no festival to exacerbate the problem either, activist Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation took readings nearSion Hospital, Dadar East railway station, Saki Naka at Andheri East, and Mohammed Ali Road. The findings were alarming. Be it hospitals or schools that are classified as silence zones, or neighbourhoods that have a mix of residential and commercial users, sound levels ranged from 95dB to 105dB.
According to noise rules, sound in silence zones should not exceed 40dB at night and 50dB by day. In residential areas, there is a cap of 45dB at night and 55dB during the day.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the relative risk of hearing loss to men and women rises when they are continually exposed to noise levels over 85dB. The danger gets higher at 90dB and above.
Mohammed Ali Road, below J J flyover, has earned a dubious distinction as the noisiest enclave in Mumbai. A flood of bikers and taxi drivers rushes to negotiate multiple traffic signals, leading to screeches and skidding sounds.
Advocate Shahid Nadeem lives in Vazir building at Shalimar junction along Bhendi Bazar. “The traffic problem is precipitated during the ongoing month of Ramzan, especially from 4pm to midnight. I think traffic police should consider opening J J flyover for bikers during this time to reduce the number of vehicles beneath the flyover. Constables should be posted at all signals. And, of course, residents must follow traffic rules,” says Nadeem, who is a lawyer for Jamiat ul Ulema.
Dadar East is an unenviable spot given the muscle of cab drivers at the taxi stand, and an amalgamation of vast footfalls from Western Railway and outstation trains. Hanuman mandir and Swaminarayan temple are meeting points for thousands of Mumbaikars.
Residents wish drivers and pedestrians would follow basic rules. Yashwant Zende, a mobile app developer who has an office here, says that even within the cacophony, it is honking that is most unbearable. “As soon as I alight from the train around 10am, I feel I should put cotton in my ears to muffle the noise. The haphazard movement of taxis leads to more honking and more irritation throughout the day,” Zende says.
Resident Anand Padhye (seen in pic) says, “The traffic department should either declare the station precinct as a no-honking zone or levy hefty fines, which will serve as a deterrent.”
Further away, the silence zone around Sion Hospital ironically faces a double whammy of ambulance sirens and indiscriminate honking. Ajay Pandya, 59, lives where the skywalk ends. He says, “I am forced to stop talking on the phone when ambulances with unnecessarily loud sirens pass even 500 metres away.” Cleatus D’Souza (seen in pic), who runs an optical store at Sion Circle, says, “Better infrastructure like the Ambedkar bridge, and the need to avoid toll for the Bandra-Worli Sealink, has prompted more vehicles to take this route. New housing complexes have also come up.” Near Gandhi Market, activist G R Vora points out that a surfeit of marriage halls sees loud processions along with musical instruments and firecrackers.
At Saki Naka junction in Andheri East, even the presence of two large nursing homes has failed to make any difference in the attitude of motorists who honk incessantly through the day.
“We have put up thick glasses to keep the noise out of the rooms and the ICCU but it helps little,” said Dr Utkarsh Angachekar of Paramount Hospital. “Unfortunately, patients who are residents of the area have become accustomed to living with such high decibels.”