Festivals across India may be a source of communal bonding, but it is also a truism that the noise they generate can be harmful to the extreme. When noise pollution activists went around the city checking for decibel levels during the Ganesh immersion, they found that they are way beyond the prescribed limits. In fact, at 115 decibels, the noise on Sunday evening was a record. The next loudest level recorded by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board was in 2010 during Ganesh immersion.
It is a medically acknowledged fact that loud, unwanted noise can result in both physiological and psychological damage. According to the World Health Organisation, “excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.”
Yet, there are very few regulations or laws to protect citizens (and animals) from noise pollution, especially in urban areas. And like most aspects of our lives, noise pollution, too, takes a political turn, with politicians that want to appease various communities.
The truth is noise pollution is a medical issue, not a political one. And it should be recognised as one by both citizens as well as the government. Merely enacting laws is not the solution; it is the implementation of the law that should be executed and monitored well.
Last weekend, for instance, the youth wing of the Shiv Sena organised a festival of drums at Shivaji Park, which is a zero tolerance zone for noise pollution. The irony was that policemen were present throughout the event, but no one even thought of stopping the programme. They later booked the treasurer of the Yuva Sena for violating norms. Politics, it would seem, continues to trump sociological and medical issues.