What is noise pollution? What are the causes and effects of noise pollution? What are the various initiatives to curb noise pollution? Read further to know more.
The political controversy in Maharashtra over the demand to remove loudspeakers from mosques raises some fundamental questions regarding noise pollution.
Noise pollution Rules have defined the acceptable level of noise in different zones for both daytime and night time.
In industrial areas, the permissible limit is 75 decibels (unit of sound; tenth of a bell, symbol dB) for anytime and 70 dB for night.
What is Noise Pollution?
- As per the Central Pollution Control Board’s mandate for noise pollution, noise is defined as unwanted sound.
- Noise pollution is generally defined as regular exposure to elevated sound levels that may lead to adverse effects in humans or other living organisms.
- According to WHO, sound intensities which are less than 70 dB are not damaging for living organisms, regardless of how long or consistent the exposure is. Exposure for more that 8 hours to constant noise 85dB may be hazardous.
- As per UNEP Annual Frontier Report 2022, Dhaka has been ranked as the noisiest city in the world which is followed by Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. Five Indian cities have been ranked in this list of being among the noisiest cities in the world which are Asansol, Jaipur, Kolkata, New Delhi, and Moradabad.
- According to the WHO: About 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12ʹ35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise.
- Long-term exposure to environmental noise contributes to 12,000 premature deaths annually in Europe.
Causes of noise pollution
- The growing industries in urban areas are a major cause of noise pollution these days which use various machines that are capable of generating a large amount of noise.
Improper Planning of Urban Areas:
- Improper and poor urban planning plays a major role in creating noise pollution, mostly in developing countries due to congested houses, small space, poor parking facilities and frequent fights over basic amenities which disrupts the environment of society.
- In several social events, songs are often played on full volume by the people which makes the living condition pretty worse thus creating noise pollution. Weddings, public gatherings involve loudspeakers to play music resulting in the production of unwanted noise in the neighbourhood.
Vehicles and transportation:
- Increased number of vehicles on the roads is one of the reasons for noise pollution.
- For example, traffic jams, underground trains, aircraft, etc produces heavy noise which may lead to a situation of hearing disability.
- Various construction activities which include mining, construction of bridges, dams, buildings, etc contributes greatly to creating noise pollution.
- Agricultural machines such as tractors, trolleys, harvesters creates louder noises >> and most of farmers are unaware of its adverse health consequences
Effects of noise pollution
1. Health Issues
- Longer exposure to loud noise result in elevated blood levels which can cause hypertension in humans.
- Constant exposure to loud noise which is beyond the range of normal sound intensity can damage the eardrums, thus resulting in hearing disability.
- Noise pollution can also affect the sleep cycle of an individual which may lead to sleeping disorder, low energy level and fatigue.
- Loud noises also results in an increase in normal blood pressure level and causes several cardiovascular diseases in a normal person.
- Higher prevalence of mental disorders have been observed in people living in crowded areas and areas that are prone to a high level of noise pollution
- Since noise pollution leads to sleep disturbance and health issues >> it affects the individual’s work performance during the day >> it leads to poor labour productivity.
- It also negatively affects school performance in children.
- High decibel noise can put trouble and may not allow two people to communicate freely. Constant sharp noise can give you a severe headache and disturb emotional balance.
- Noise has harmful effects on non-living materials too.
- Numerous examples can be cited where old buildings and even new constructions have developed cracks under the stress of explosive sounds.
- Children appear to be more sensitive to noise pollution, and a number of noise-pollution-related diseases and dysfunctions are known to affect children, from hearing impairment to psychological and physical effects.
Effects on Wildlife and Marine Life
- Our oceans are no longer quiet. Thousands of oil drills, sonars, seismic survey devices, coastal recreational watercraft and shipping vessels are now populating our waters, and that is a serious cause of noise pollution for marine life.
- Whales are among the most affected, as their hearing helps them orient themselves, feed and communicate.
- Noise pollution thus interferes with cetaceans’ (whales and dolphins) feeding habits, reproductive patterns and migration routes, and can even cause hemorrhage and death.
- Other than marine life, land animals are also affected by noise pollution in the form of traffic, firecrackers etc., and birds are especially affected by the increased air traffic.
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):
- The CPCB is mandated to track noise levels, set standards as well as ensure, via their State units, that sources of excessive noise are controlled.
- The agency has a manual monitoring system where sensors are installed in major cities and few cities have the facility to track noise
levels in real time.
Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
- Section 2 (a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 includes noise in the definition of ‘air pollution’.
- Noise emanating from industry is regulated by State Pollution Control Boards / Pollution Control Committees (SPCBs / PCCs) for states / Union territories under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000
- Noise pollution and its sources are regulated under The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 under The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- The Act has defined ambient acceptable noise levels, silence zones, restrictions on the use of loudspeakers, horns, sound-emitting construction equipment, and bursting of crackers.
- It has also laid down the responsibility for enforcement.
- At present, violation of noise pollution rules is a criminal offence punishable under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986
- Noise standards for motor vehicles, air-conditioners, refrigerators, diesel generators and certain types of construction equipment are prescribed under the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986.
National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network (NANMN)
- 70 noise monitoring stations under the NANMN was established in 2011, across seven cities.
- These are declared by the state governments >> around hospitals, educational institutions and courts.
- Revising fines for violations of noise pollution norms:
- The National Green Tribunal in 2019, while hearing a case related to noise pollution, had asked the Central Pollution Control Board to look at revising fines for violations of noise pollution norms.
- Ban on loudspeakers during night time at public places:
- The Supreme Court in 2005 banned the use of loudspeakers and music systems between 10 pm to 6 am (except in the cases of public
emergencies) at public places citing serious effects of noise pollution on health of the people living in such areas.
- Use of loudspeaker – not a fundamental right:
- In 2016, the Bombay High Court ruled that the use of loudspeaker was not a fundamental right.
- The Bombay High Court observed that no religion or sect could claim that the right to use a loudspeaker or a public address system was a fundamental right conferred by Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
- To provide protective devices like ear muffs or cotton plugs to the workers who work in various industries and construction sites.
- To enforce acoustic zoning by distancing human settlements from industrial areas, aerodromes and railway stations.
- Highway traffics should be diverted through bye-passes and over-bridges and should not be allowed to pass through the towns and cities.
- Decibel metres should be installed along highways and in factories to check and control the intensity of noise pollution.
Sound proofing machines in industrial units:
- Sound-proof chambers should be installed for the machines generating loudnoise.
Creation of ‘green belt’ to check noise pollution
- It has been seen that plants are efficient absorbers of noise, especially noise of higher frequency.
- In metropolitan areas a green belt of vegetation and open spaces in general may have a great value in noise control as in air purification
- Silence zones should be created for educational institutes, hospitals and important offices.
Article written by Aseem Muhammed
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