A day after the state informed the Bombay High Court of an amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules 2000, denotifying all the silence zones in the city, anti-noise pollution activist Sumaira Abdulali warned of a noisier Ganesh Chaturthi this year. “With no silence zones, it will be a lot easier to get permissions for mandals around hospitals and educational institutes. There is only a week left for the festival and it is unlikely that the zones will be identified during this time,” she said.
Recording noise pollution during Ganeshotsav from 2013, Awaaz Foundation has found that the sound level had dipped each year from 2013 to 2015. Noise pollution in 2016 was, however, higher than 2015.
According to a notification by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on August 10, the decision to declare an area as a silence zone rests with the state . A place will be earmarked a silence zone only when the state issues a notification to that effect.
Until Wednesday, there were more than 1,500 silence zones in the city. “Hundred metres around hospitals, courts, religious places and educational institutes were categorised as silence zones. This would be most parts of Mumbai, as one of these institutions are found in almost all the areas,” said Abdulali, whose Awaaz Foundation is a petitioner in the case.
She added: “The decision shows their priorities. Just to satisfy a small vote bank, they are going to ruin everyone’s health.”
Abdulali said pollution levels had come down after noise rules were put in place. “The environment secretary had acknowledged it and said it was a result of the people’s movement. This is going to reverse all that.”
Mandals have welcomed the order. “Because of the regulation, we could not perform aarti within 100 metres of hospitals and other institutions. But now we can celebrate the festival better. We will still take all precautions to ensure no patient or resident is affected because of our celebration,” said Naresh Dahibavkar, President, Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS).
An official from the state environment department said the call on deciding silence zones would be taken by the home department and local bodies. “We just informed the HC about the amendment made by the Union ministry. The home department and local bodies will take a call on notifying the silence zones,” explained the official.
Mahek Chayya, a Malad resident, said, “The amount of noise created by a pandal, apartment or any area hosting Ganpati, is not by any means directly proportional to your devotion to the festival. I live near a school and a hospital and last year, there were four pandals around my house. I can only imagine the noise this year.”