For several months earlier this year, Satish Joshi’s family hasn’t used an alarm clock. Living next to the Siddhivinayak Temple Metro station site, they woke up each morning to the sound of the piling machine. “Since the construction began, we have been harrowed by the noise. They would begin work sharp at 6 am, and often continue beyond 10 pm. We had to bear it all day through,” says Joshi, whose 85-year-old mother lives with him.
Facing a similar issue, Robin Jaisinghani, who lives next to the Cuffe Parade Metro station site, spent over Rs 1 lakh to install soundproof windows for his residence. Jaisinghani says, “Work would go on at night, disturbing my childrens’ sleep cycle. The children would wake up irritated and were suffering from constant headaches. I was left with no option but to install the soundproof windows in all the rooms.”
Jaisinghani approached the Bombay High Court last year, which directed Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to not carry out any construction or ancillary work between 10 pm to 6 am. That order was modified on August 24 this year, when the High Court permitted the MMRC and its contractors Larsen & Toubro (L&T) to carry out construction and ancillary activities also during the night at Cuffe Parade site.
Acting Chief Justice Naresh H Patil and Justice G S Kulkarni said MMRC could carry out construction activities by implementing the recommendations of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
According to NEERI report, noise at the Cuffe Parade site exceeded prescribed levels for both day and night. According to their report, the ambient noise levels during the day ranged from 68.5 to 91.9 decibels and during the night from 60.3 to 83.4 decibels, while the permissible levels for residential areas are restricted to 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night.
It’s a similar story for residents near metro construction sites across the city, with construction noise continuing post 10 pm at many sites.Ashwin Nagpal, a Churchgate resident, claims that he has approached the Marine Drive police station nearly 40 times. “When the work had initially begun, on most nights the work would continue post 10 pm. I would have to come down to ask the contractor to stop the work as it was disturbing our sleep. In the initial two months I must have called the police 40 times, and they would come to stop the work.”
Living in a MHADA building facing the Mahalaxmi metro station site, Shweta Halunkar’s family had sleepless nights until early August with the piling machine placed right outside her window. “We have a small home and we have to sleep with the windows open. But as a result we also have to bear the loud clanging noise through the night,” she says.
Students near various sites are unhappy too. At the Late Bhausaheb Hiray College in Bandra East, the noise made it difficult for students to write their semester exams this year. “Our classroom faces the work site, making things worse,” said a professor of botany. At Siddharth College on DN Road too, when piling work at Hutatma Chowk station was going on, students on the back rows couldn’t hear what the professor was saying. “When the exams were conducted we requested MMRC to avoid noisy work during the day. They complied by working only in the weekends,” says Umaji Maske, Principal of Siddharth College.
Unable to concentrate on her studies due to the noise coming from the Worli metro site outside her house, Manasi Surve, a third-year Management student, would sit at the Worli Seaface to study. Living on the ground floor of the building adjoining the metro site, she says, “The pilling machine was close to our kitchen. It was impossible for me to study with so much noise.”
The vibrations have also caused panic on several occasions. Halunkar said every time the machine was operated, they could feel the vibrations in their house. “We complained to everyone from the MMRC, MHADA, Mumbai Police to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), but to no avail. The building is old and we are scared it may come crashing down. MMRC has offered to rehabilitate the residents of this building but they are offering homes in Wadala and Borivali. We work here and our children study here, how can we live so far away,” she says.
Siddharth College has also in the past year raised several concerns over the heritage building’s safety, after cracks reportedly emerged in parts of the building.
The NEERI report, prepared after conducting noise monitoring studies at seven locations, also mentions the impact of the noise on people’s health. “Construction noise can be a contributing factor to the degradation of someone’s health in that it can cause people to be irritated and stressed and can interrupt their ability to sleep. All of this may lead to higher blood pressure, anxiety and feelings of animosity towards the people and agencies responsible for the noise,” the report said.
Most residents along the alignment of the 33.5-km corridor have observed these symptoms. Manasi Surve says she could see the noise taking a toll on the health of her father, a cardiac patient. Norene Fernandes, 85, living right next to the Pali Naka launching shaft, suffered from respiratory tract infections for most part of the year. By her own admission she has spent over Rs 10,000 last year on medical treatment.
“The exhaust from their machine was towards my house, and almost at the same level as my window,” she says. At the Siddhivinayak station site, a grocery store owner has been manning the store wearing a mask. MMRC on its part has taken some steps to lower decibel levels, including noise barriers and puffed barricades. “Wherever it is possible to place noise barriers or puffed barricades we are doing that. They add one more layer of noise absorbing material behind the barricades so that reduces the noise level. Some of the contractors are also trying to have some kind of a makeshift barrier, which will only cover the machinery. Even for excavators there’s some noise absorbing material with which we can cover certain part of the machine and that should help reduce noise levels,” Ashwini Bhide, Managing Director, MMRC, had earlier said to The Indian Express in an interview.
Most residents find the clanging noise created when the piling machine tries to dislodge the muck stuck in the tool as disturbing. MMRC has worked with their contractors to create an innovation by which the muck can be cleared without making noise. “When the piling machine comes out of the ground the muck would be embedded in the tool. Earlier, they were removing it by giving a jerk to the tool to dislodge it. Now we have added an attachment to the machine against which the tool rotates, dislodging the muck. We have implemented this on all our machines,” said S K Gupta, Director (Projects), MMRC.
Meanwhile, residents are hopeful after the court directed MMRC to set up a grievance redressal mechanism for such complaints.