A MASSIVE Ganesh pandal stands on the footpath outside the 20-bed Arogya Seva Kendra across Bandra Talao. Watchman Suresh Jadhav says that he can hear the aarti twice every day, with noise levels soaring higher on days of visarjan. Pandals in Mumbai have mushroomed in silence zones, especially near hospitals, flouting norms that restrict noise levels from exceeding 50 decibels (dB) during the day and 40 dB during the night. In residential areas, the levels are capped at 55 dB during the day and 45 dB after 10 pm, while in commercial zones the levels cannot exceed 65 dB during the day and 55 dB at night.
“In silence zones, the police or civic body does not generally issue no objection certificates (NOCs) to play loudspeakers or drums. Residents can file a complaint and get the loudspeakers removed, but unfortunately the awareness on this is very low,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convenor of NGO Awaaz foundation, that creates advocacy on noise pollution. Experts have also claimed that not all city hospitals have been demarcated as silence zones by the civic body.
Awaaz’s 2010 report said the city had 1,157 silence zones, most of which lie in Bhandup (74). The Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, state: “Silence zone is referred to as areas up to 100 metres around such premises as hospitals, educational institutions and courts. Use of vehicular horns, loudspeakers and bursting crackers shall be banned in these zones.”
With the 10-day Ganesh festival, hospitals and nursing homes are finding it increasingly difficult to ensure comfort for patients. In Goregaon (East), a pandal stands in a residential society next to Guru Nanak Nursing Home. “Be it any festival, noise pollution has become a social problem. Patients admitted here are disturbed with loudspeakers blaring in the next society. This happens every year, though the noise levels are lower this year,” said medical director Dr Sudhir Naik.
In Arogya Seva Kendra, superintendent Vinod Mankar said, “We are used to vehicular noise and loudspeakers playing. Everybody accepts it as a part of the festival and nobody complains.”
The first two days’ noise level report prepared by Awaaz Foundation showed that rules were flouted in silence zones like Pedder Road, Grant Road and Juhu. On September 18, the noise levels reached 95 dB outside Lotus Eye Hospital in Juhu due to drums. At Breach Candy Hospital, the noise levels touched 92 dB following a Ganesh procession with a DJ.
Abdulali has already received over 40 complaints from citizens on the ongoing festivities. “We will present the complaints to civic authorities and the chief minister,” she said.
DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni said that loudspeaker licenses depend on areas demarcated as silence zones by the BMC. “Not all hospitals come under silence zones. Our local police are on the rounds to monitor that pandals in silence zones do not use loudspeakers,” he said.
Deputy municipal commissioner Anand Wagaralkar said factors such as ensuring unhindered ambulance movement is verified before a license is issued to pandals near any hospital.