WHAT YOU CAN DO
2nd Revised Edition
NOISE RULE HAS UNDERGONE AMENDMENTS
SUM SUBSTANCE HAS REMAINED THE SAME
THIS 2ND EDITION NEEDS TO BE REVISED TO THAT EXTENT
Sudhir Badami firstname.lastname@example.org December 2009
(Based on a Report of the Committee appointed by the Bombay High Court for studyng Noise Pollution)
BOMBAY ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION GROUP
EP Act 1986 and the Rules on Noise 1989
What Is Noise Pollution? What You Can DoHarmful effects of Noise
The first edition of the booklet on noise pollution was found useful to many organizations and individuals interested in curbing Noise Pollution.
The revised edition of the booklet covers many legal and social changes that have occurred over the years. People everywhere are becoming more and more aware regarding the harmful effect of noise pollution and its effect on health.
Dr. Y.T.Oke and others had filed a writ petition No.1789 in the Bombay High Court in 1985 against Maharashtra Government, Bombay Municipal Corporation and Bombay Police, submitting that noise was a nuisance and the authorities had enough powers to curb it. Hon. Justice Sujata Manohar appointed an eight member Expert Committee to study noise pollution and the steps to be taken to control it by the Respondents. This report was published and copies are available with the Bombay Environmental Action Group. A committee was formed under Commissioner of Police and Joint meetings were held between officials and non-officials regarding steps to be taken to control noise.
During the ensuing period the concept of noise being a ‘Nuisance’ gradually changed to its being a “health Hazard” as more and more doctors started research on effects of Noise. A set of “assurances” was submitted by the police to the court. The most significant event after this was the passing of the Environment Protection Act, in 1985 and the Rules on Noise 1989. Under this Act the following curbs on decibel levels were introduced. It is important to note that noise was considered a “pollutant” under the Environment Protection Act. Some extracts from the rules are as under:
EP Act 1986 and the Rules on Noise 1989 and
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000
Under this Act the following rules have been framed:
1. Noise is a pollutant
2. Maximum Decibel levels permitted as per Rules are as follows:
a) Industrial 75dB 70dB
b) Commercial 65dB 55dB
c) Residential 55dB 45dB
d) Silence Zone 50dB 40dB
Silence Zone upto 100 meters around hospitals, educational institutions, Courts etc. Loudspeakers, vehicular horns are not allowed in Silence Zone at all.
3. Anyone violating the Act and Rules is liable for severe punishment; fine upto Rs.1,00,000/- and/or imprisonment upto 5 years.
4. If the institutions are found to be violating the Act, the Head of the Institution would be liable for punishment, even Government Institutions are not spared from this prosecution. Ideal decibel levels at home would be 45dB during the day and 35dB during the night (in the bedroom). Usual decibel levels due to Radio and TV are 40 to 50, louder volumes could produce 60-65 dB or more; kitchen grinders 60-70dB, office typewriters 55 to 60dB, vehicular engines and horns 80—85 dB, roadside drilling machines 90-100 dB, aircraft noise 110-120 dB, loudspeakers 90-100 dB, could reach upto 100-120 dB during the festivals, loud noise firecrackers produce sound levels upto 110-120 dB (which are enough to permanently damage the eardrums).
Anti noise pollution Committee, Association of Medical Consultants and Bombay Environmental Action Group has filed Writ Petition against Government of Maharashtra and Bombay Police in September 1995 in Bombay High Court. The main demands are that since the Government of Maharashtra is the implementing authority, it should be directed to implement the EP Act 1986 and the Rules on Noise 1989 so that people in the State would be protected from ill effects of Noise as the Noise Pollution has reached an alarming level and has become a public health problem in the State.
Bombay High Court has also taken serious note of noise pollution due to loudspeakers, firecrackers, beating of drums and use of musical instruments during roadside processions etc. By its order of December 1995, and subsequent orders the Court has directed the State Government and Bombay Police not to allow use of loudspeaker that would cause noise pollution and violate the EP Act 1986 and the Rules on Noise 1989. The court further directed the State Government that all the rules under various Acts including conformity with rules framed under EP Act 1986.
Surprisingly, Maharashtra Government while reviewing the timings in 1994 allowed loudspeakers upto 11:30 p.m. and in some cases upto 1 a.m. inspite of the fact that under the Environment Protection Act, the time limit is upto 9 p.m. only.
According to the Noise Pollution (Regulations and Control)
Contempt of Court Petition
In October 1996, Maharashtra Government requested the Bombay High Court to allow the use of loudspeakers during Navratri Utsav upto 1 a.m. This request was turned down by the High Court; yet the Government permitted 119 Navratri mandals to use loudspeakers upto 1 a.m., which caused tremendous noise pollution and distress to citizens.
In November 1996, Dr.Y.T. Oke and others filed Contempt
Petition No.5 of 1996 in Bombay High Court against Maharashtra government,
Home Department and the Commissioner of Police for disregarding High Court
Orders. Bombay High Court has taken serious view of this incident.
Navratri Festival : Navratri Festival in Bombay City has become the noisiest festival with the use of loudspeakers and orchestras. In 1996, despite a clear High Court order that loudspeakers had to be shut off at 11:30 p.m. a note was issued through the Home department extending the deadline upto 1 a.m. With this amendment dandiya organizers blasted loudspeaker till unearthly hours, causing much trouble to citizens. For this act, Maharashtra Government is facing contempt of Court proceedings.
Gulmohar Residents Association in Juhu Vile Parle Development Scheme has already obtained High court injunction against the noise pollution caused by the use of loudspeakers in the festivals and marriage ceremonies and accompanying bands and use of firecrackers in ‘baraat’ processions in their locality till 10 p.m. only. Vigilant citizens are requested to file written complaints against noise due to loudspeakers, firecrackers etc., in their locality to respective police stations and obtain acknowledgments of the same.
Calcutta High Court Judgement
The Calcutta High Court as well as the Karnataka High Court has taken a very serious view of sound pollution due to loudspeakers and firecrackers. By an order in April 1996, the Calcutta court has given strict directions to the West Bengal Pollution Control Board and Calcutta Police to be very vigilant against Noise Pollution. About 15 Durga Pooja Mandals who violated Court Orders were fined upto Rs.5000 each. The office bearers were directed to be present in the Court and give a written undertaking that they would not violate Court Orders in future. Few hotels were fined upto Rs.20,000/- to Rs.25,000/- for violating Court Orders during 31st December celebrations. A prayer house (mosque) near the airport was also fined Rs.2500/- for causing noise pollution due to use of loudspeakers. Firecrackers causing sound above 65 dB have been banned by the court order.
In the order passed in April 1996 the Hon Court states:
In this connection a reader of the Times of India writes:
Incidentally, a recent Calcutta High Court order states that no fundamental right exists which permits anyone to generate unlimited amounts of noise and to ride roughshod over the peace of large segments of the population. It is time that citizens rose against the loudspeaker menace and prevailed upon the authorities to enforce the relevant laws to stop noise pollution at the earliest.”
By the order passed on Writ Petition No.4303 of 1995 filed by Fireworks dealers, the Calcutta High Court has given strict directions to various authorities. It states that Environment Protection Act, 1986 has got an overriding effect over all other enactment. The Environment Protection (Third Amendment) Rules 1989 inserted a schedule laying down the Ambient Air Quality Standard in respect of noise, which contains the limit of 65 decibels as statutory one. Under this act Central Government has powers to take all such measures for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of environment preventing and controlling environmental pollution.
Order of High Court of Judicature at Bombay. Writ Petition of 180 of 1998.
Coram : M.B. Shah, C.J. & D.N. Srikrishna J
CONSIDERING THE AFORESAID CONTENTION AND THE PETITIONER’S GREVANCES, THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE IS DIRECTED TO PUBLISH NOTICE IN NEWSPAPERS THAT NOBODY IS PERMITTED TO USE LOUD-SPEAKER AFTER 10.00 P.M. AND THAT WHOSOEVER COMMITS BREACH OF THE PERMISSION WOULD BE PROSECUTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH LAW. EVEN UPTO 10.00 P.M. THE LOUDSPEAKER WOULD BE TUNED AT A REASONABLY LOW DECIBEL. THE DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF POLICE OF THAT PARTICULAR ZONE WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ENFORCING THESE DIRECTIONS.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
All of us are constantly exposed to sound. Those like the twittering of birds, the rustling of leaves, the gentle lapping of waves are natural sounds that would strike a responsive chord in most of us. But when even pleasant sounds become too loud, they become unwanted noise. Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB). It is a unit for expressing the relative intensity of sound on a scale from zero (for the average least perceptible sound) to about 130 for the average pain level.
Harmful effects of Noise:-
Noise is harmful. Damage caused by noise can range from bursting of eardrum, permanent hearing loss (in a recent survey 80% of Traffic Police in Pune were found to be deaf), cardiac and cardiovascular changes, stress, fatigue, lack of concentration, deterioration in motor and psychomotor functions, nausea, disturbance of sleep, headaches, insomnia, and loss of appetite and much other damage is caused. Pregnant women exposed to high noise levels may be at risk. Harmful effects are there even if you don’t feel you are being disturbed. Psychological disturbances and emotional distress also occur - violent conduct by persons continuously exposed to unbearable noise.
The National Physical Laboratory has found that Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta are the noisiest cities in the world. Even the Election Commission has recognized the harmful effects of noise and banned use of loudspeakers during the elections. Widespread ill effects of Noise Pollution such as high blood pressure, increased acidity and peptic ulcer formation, deafness, mental agitation and disturbance of sleep generally became known to people in early 1980s. So far Bombay Police Act 1951 and Bombay Municipal Corporation Act 1888 considered noise as just a nuisance, now it is known as major health hazard. We in India are exposed not only to noises, common to most countries, but in addition we have to face misuse of loudspeakers, loud and shrill vehicle horns, noisy crackers, etc, which are firmly put down in most countries.
Sources of Noises
A survey carried out in Bombay by the Society for Clean Environment (SOCLEEN) and Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for Hearing Handicapped revealed that the main sources for noise were:
1. Road Traffic
Rights and remedies
All of us are entitled to live in an environment free from pollution. Under the recently enacted Environment Protection Act 1986, the Government does have the power to curb noise pollution; rules have been framed for enforcing this aspect of the Act in 1989.
If you are concerned or troubled by noise pollution and seek to remedy the situation, the answer is simple – you must be prepared to act. Preferably form a group in your society or locality which is prepared to take up all violations of the Environment Protection Act, with the police; the Municipality and if necessary, the Courts.
First and foremost examine your own actions and consider whether you are creating unnecessary noise, which affects your neighbours and surroundings. You may not have control over all sources of noise, but you can at least control the noise levels emanating from your own radio, TV, car etc. Also don’t buy firecrackers that make noise - buy only the ones that light up your celebrations. Persuade your friends and neighbours to do the same.
If you are still troubled by obnoxious noise in your neighbourhood caused by loudspeakers, film shows, late night parties, crackers etc., ring up the police control room (100) as well as the nearest police station. You are not bound to give your name and address. Please keep an accurate record of your complaints. If you phone the police control room, ask for your complaint ‘ticket’ number.
Also get the name and designation of the officer who answers the phone, as well as the time and the date. If the concerned police officer refuses to act, the police commissioner will then be able to pull up his recalcitrant officers. Do make sure you mention all the relevant details in your complaint.
It is also advisable to make a written complaint to nearby police station with copy to Police Commissioner and copy to Bombay Environmental Action Group, preferably make a group complaint.
NOISE FROM MOTOR VEHICLES:-
Complain to Regional Transport Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic). Give the offending vehicle’s number/s, and the date, time and place of the offense.
SALE AND USE OF BANNED CRACKERS:
Present Police regulations ban firecrackers between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Although this is a violation of the Environment Protection Act, even this is completely ignored, and the police have taken no action although the Bombay Police Act empowers them to do so. Moreover the maximum fine for violation according to the Bombay Police Act is Rs.50/- but the EP Act provides for a fine of Rs.1 lakh and jail for five years. Even if a single case is brought to court and exemplary punishment given, there will be a major change in attitude – the contempt, which some people have for the general welfare of the people and inability of the police to act. There are special regulations for firecrackers near hospitals, nursing homes, etc. but these are also totally ignored causing patients intense agony (as has been repeatedly pointed out in the press).
The police routinely issue lists of banned types of firecrackers. However neither the public, the police or the explosives department can state, by looking at a cracker, that it is illegal. For instance, an atom bomb must not weigh more than 21 gms. Is any one able to say looking at it, that it is under 21 gms? Or the authorities supposed to carry weighing scales and weigh each and every item in all shops? The only way is to control manufacture at the source.
If shops in your neighbourhood are selling banned crackers, call the police. Remember that it is easier to control this nuisance at the point of origin rather than after the damage has been done and the incriminating evidence blows up.
What happens when the police fail to respond?
The answer is simple- escalate your campaign. If the sub-inspector on duty refuses to act, see the station inspector, if the station inspector refuses to act, write to the Police Commissioner. If police control room refuses to respond, call the Police Commissioner. If you are worried that revealing your identity will make you vulnerable to local pressures, ask a friend who lives in the other end of town to complain on your behalf, or write to a concerned environmental group such as Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), Society for Clean Environment (SOCLEEN) or Association of Medical Consultants (addresses given at the end).
You will be surprised at the tremendous impact a letter to the Editor of any of the leading newspapers will have on the lethargic public machinery.
Form anti noise committees in your locality
When the nuisance is beyond tolerable limits and other means don’t work, file a writ petition in the High Court. The above groups will be glad to help you in every way. This method has been successful in the past. Once there is a court order the police are bound to act, or face contempt of court.
Contact your local MP/MLA/Councilor and bring to his notice the harmful effects of noise as well as your own particular problem. Write to Department of Environment, Government of India, as well as State Environment Department.
Other ways in which you can help
If you are interested in helping others besides helping yourselves, are you prepared to spare your time or your money or both? If the answer is yes, then please write to BEAG.
A decibel is a logarithm of the radio of the sound pressure experienced to the reference pressure (which is the threshold of hearing). It is a unit for expressing the intensity of sound on a scale from zero (for the average least perceptible sound) to about 130 for the average pain level. Even small values in dB levels mean large difference in terms of sound pressure. For example the sound pressure at 120 dB is a hundred times more than at 80 dB. An increase of just 3 dB means there is doubling in sound pressure.
Relation between sound pressure and dB
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 dB
1. Report of the Committee apppointed by Hon. Justice
Smt. Sujata Manohar on Noise Pollution (1986) (Distributed by Bombay Environmental
Action Group, 4, Kurla Industrial Estate, Ghatkopar, Mumbai 400 086)
+91 98215 20805
Dr Y T Oke
Prof (Dr) Laxmi Vyas