Fighting Noise Pollution, Mumbai Celebrates No Honking Day

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Photo by James Cridland.

In ancient Indian and Chinese texts, writers noted that the ultimate form of torture involved subjecting captives to loud and horrible noises. It’s an interesting paradox that we now live in the modern world as free citizens, and all we need to do is stroll down the street to be exposed to noise loud enough to become physically ill, elevating our blood pressure to unhealthy levels, interfering with our sleeping patterns, and causing a whole host of stress related diseases.

On the majority of roads in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi, noise pollution can measure nearly 80-90 decibels during peak hours. That’s roughly the equivalent of standing just 15 feet from a passing freight train! Noise levels above 80 decibels are detrimental to healthy hearing and the Australian EPA suggests that prolonged exposure to noise at or above this level can cause deafness. It’s such a serious problem that researchers in the EU found that the social cost of noise pollution for that region is 0.4% of total GDP. In Indian city’s it must be a lot worse. (For normal tension free conversation one requires a background noise level less than 55 decibels.)

Although noise pollution is not widely recognized by the general public – its been dubbed, “the silent enemy” – the Indian government considers it an air pollutant, aligning itself with the World Health Organization which views it as a serious health problem. In an effort to reduce noise levels on the streets, the Indian government has prescribed a standard noise limit barrier for residential, commercial, and industrial areas, with restrictions being 55, 65 and 75 decibels respectively. But for anyone who walks down the street, it really shouldn’t be all that surprising that these limits are violated regularly during the course of day.

Yet there is still hope even as rapid motorisation in Mumbai and other Indian cities – the primary cause of noise pollution – turns pedestrians, shop keepers, and residents in their own private homes into the unwilling audience of loud and jarring noises. Mumbai, for example, celebrated No Honking Day last week, a remarkable feat that could only have been made possible by the Mumbai traffic police’s relentless efforts to enforce the ban. For average citizens – but especially traffic police and pedestrians, two groups that are routinely exposed to traffic – this was a welcome break from the noise pollution caused by cars.

Before No Honking Day many Indian’s predicted that the day would be plagued by accidents and chaos as many consider honking to be the ultimate savior against accidents and other unruly pedestrians and motorists. But the day passed uneventfully like all other days. There was just one small difference: Mumbai was a little less noisy. But only a little.

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  • http://www.thatkush.com Juelz Santana

    Over crowded places are forcing it because you can easily get robbed.

  • Erica Schlaikjer

    Tania,

    You’re absolutely right. Symbolic celebrations only go so far. It’s better to get the support of local authorities to create and enforce new laws that help improve the quality of life for their citizens.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • tania

    No honking day celebration is the not only solutions to reduce Noise pollution. Implement noise law.
    Firstly lot of program creates awareness to general people.
    Secondly including traffic police to implement the law

  • V Kumar

    The Police can do a great job for the city of Mumbai by totally banning use of Loooooooud speakers on top of religous places all over Mumbai.

  • V Kumar

    If only the Trafic police & the enforcement agencies do work for what they are officially getting salary Mumbai can be a better place to live.
    I strongly feel these enforcement agencies are only responsible for the ills of our beautiful city Mumbai.
    They are the ones who allow Hawkers to come up on the foot path & generally 2 lanes of the road.They allow/permit vehicles to be parked all over on the behest of road side stores.
    They allow shop owners to park their Bicycles , bikes across on the roads blocking 1-2 lanes , double parking.
    If they come down from the flyovers for 3 months & do their duty of enforcing no parking & no hawkers up to 300 meters from traffic signal all our citizens can leave in peace.

    My humble request to Traffic police is leave flyovers & corner spots ( No need to elobrate their motives) and come down on signals , regulate them. Ensure no parking / no hawkers /no honking up to 300 meters from signals & see the city getting in to life once again.Today it is getting sick due to these decipline enforcing agencies not doing their job & remaining stuck on flyovers & blind corners.

  • V Kumar

    I don’t agree that ‘No honking day’ was possible due to Traffic Police.
    It was entirely the efforts put by Madam Mayor .
    If Police was even 1% serious they would have declared ‘No honking day” at more frequent periods , at least 2-3 days a week. May be they should declare ‘No honking after 9pm ‘ all through Mumbai & totally Ban honking in areas near Malls ( Inorbit , Hypercity – Malad-W).
    Traffic people should adopt areas like Malls , certain Artriary roads like Goregaon-Mulund Link roads.
    They generally don’t take responsibility of maintaining traffic. They should not allow Parking / Hawkers 300 Mts from any traffic signal.They are a sight at most inappropriate places like flyovers and further slow down traffic.Their role as enforcer of Law is missing.