The festival of lights is not meant to make us go deaf. But with each passing year, as crackers explode more like crude bombs and sale of such products goes on unchecked, complaints ofear aches, temporary deafness and traumatised children, not to mention pets taking ill, only go up.
But finally, after years of waking up late to conduct perfunctionary tests, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) seems to have swung into action in right earnest. To make sure that every firecracker allowed to enter Mumbai this year for Diwali passes a strict decibel level control test, MPCB officials have decided to conduct a special testing of fire crackers a full three weeks before the festival, so that offending fire crackers can be identified and banned. The MPCB wants to keep the noise pollution levels under control this year.
It will begin conducting the testing of firecrackers in the coming week. “We have decided to test the firecrackers latest by next week, as the procedure takes time. There is no use of conducting the test two weeks prior to Diwali as the report has to reach Mumbai Police as well. We are conducting the test sooner than it was conducted last year. Last time the procedure couldn’t be completed in time and there was little time to take punitive action,” said Vidyanand Motghare, joint MD, MPCB.
Testing firecrackers helps determine whether they are legally permissible to be sold. The fire crackers vendors have to get a license from the police department to sell the firecrackers. The MPCB aims to take action against those who are found selling fire crackers which are above the prescribed noise decibel limit and will seek help from the city police. By conducting the tests in advance, the MPCB and police officials will get more than two weeks to take punitive action. As per the rules, a single firecracker should not exceed more than 125 decibels limit while the noise of a serial fire cracker should not exceed than 105 decibels.
The level of sound created by an individual firecracker is measured with the help of a hand-held machine which shows the amount of noise generated by the respective firecrackers. The place used for testing must be an open area with no silent zone within 100 meters. Last year, the test was conducted at Carter Road.
“I appreciate that the MPCB have decided to conduct the test latest by next weekend. According to Environment Protection Act, an individual who bursts firecrackers after 10 pm or within the periphery of a silent zone (hospitals, temples, colleges, court or schools) is liable to pay fine up to R1 lakh along with an imprisonment of five years. However, according to Mumbai Police, the individual may be charged fine up to R5,000,” said Sumaira Abdulali, an environmentalist and the President of Awaaz Foundation, an NGO.
The noise standards for firecrackers notified by the Environment Protection Act of 1999 said that the manufacture, sale or useof firecrackers generating noise level exceeding 125 dB (AI) or 145 dB (C) pk at four metres distance from the point of bursting is prohibited. The Supreme Court has also banned loudspeakers and bursting of firecrackers in residential areas between 10 pm to 6 am. Noise in a residential area should not exceed 55 dB during the day 45 dB at night. It is only during commercial events, that it is relaxed a bit, allowing 65 dB during the day and 60 dB at night. In 2012, tests conducted by the MPCB and the NGO Awaaz showed that Sutali bombs, 5000 serial crackers, Thunderbolts and Thriller bombs flouted the norms of the MPCB. These were banned in November as they were found to have crossed the permissible sound level. Some recorded as high as 126.7dB.