Sahil Parab (holding the phone) and Harsh Mahadikar have been measuring noise levels with another friend near their area in a chawl in Mumbai.
Mumbai: The sight of activists recording noise pollution levels during events is quite normal. But this Navratri, many citizens have taken to monitoring the decibel levels in their areas via mobile phone applications.
This initiative was in response to the BMC's contention that they did not receive any complaints of noise pollution during Ganpati. Citizens across the city recorded noise levels between 82 and 100 decibels on the first day of Navratri (Tuesday), much higher than the permissible limit of 55 db.
Festivals like Ganeshotsav and Navratri are getting noisier by the year. The sounds of dhol-tasha have been combined with recorded music blaring from loudspeakers in public places. In Navratri, live music too reaches the decibel levels of recorded music via loudspeakers, with thousands dancing to the tunes at Garba celebrations.
In the city, loudspeakers are allowed upto 10 pm, while on the last three days of Navratri, they are allowed upto midnight. Usually, the permissible noise levels in residential areas are 55 db upto 10 pm and 45 db after that.
It's loud on Day 1
"On Tuesday, the first day of Navratri, I got a lot of calls from citizens complaining about noise. All of them had measured the noise levels through a cellphone app, and all the recordings were between 82 to 95 decibels even after 10 pm," said Sumaira Abdulali, convenor of NGO Awaaz Foundation. Susanne Dorothy, a resident of Nerul, recorded 80 decibels at Akshar circle, Palm Beach road.
She uploaded a screenshot of the app which showed the noise levels and wrote a post on the NGO's Facebook page:"Dandiya Tamasha at Plot 6, Sector 46a, Nerul west- for a meagre crowd of around 30, the noise decibels...(sic) was 80db at 21.42 hours. We called the cops, they told us to wait till 10pm. The organisers had switched on the music 7.30 pm onwards, (and there was so much noise pollution)... the balcony windows were shaking."
Another user, Delphine Pinto, a resident of Sector 10 of Nerul, also wrote that the noise levels were 90 decibels in her area on Tuesday. She complained that when she informed the police about it, no action was taken despite high noise levels.
Pinto said, "Yesterday, around 8.30 pm, the decibel levels crossed 90. I had called the police in the morning, to inform them. Then I called up the police again to complain but they did not answer. Then I went to the police station but they refused to lodge my FIR. I have patients in the house. I myself am very stressed because of all this."
A resident of E Moses Road who did not want to be named recorded 110 decibels at 9.30 am when the moorti was being brought in. She then spoke to the group playing the music and explained to them the hazards of noise pollution, after which they stopped playing it.
Kids measure levels
Three school children from BDD chawl have been mapping noise levels in their area. After undertaking the exercise during Ganeshotsav, they are now mapping noise during Navratri.
"On Tuesday, between 10 am and 1 pm, the noise levels were more than 100 decibels. That was the time when the goddess idols were being installed. It was mostly due to loudspeakers. I don't understand why are festivals are getting noisier every year," said Sangeeta Kapadia, who runs an NGO, Down to Earth, that helps kids with their studies.
The three boys go to the NGO for tuitions and one of them, Sahil Parab (11) found out about the app before Ganpati this year. He then roped in his friends, Harsh Mahadikar (11) and Aniruddh Chaudhary (12), for the project. They have opted for noise pollution as their research project for a competition by another NGO, and will be writing a report on the same.
'Isn't there a cap on noise levels?'
St Xavier's College professor Avkash Jadhav's 8-year-old daughter Aapulki also complained of high noise levels near their home, at Kora Kendra in Borivli. The Kendra hosts large Navratri celebrations every year. When measured with the help of the app, it registered a reading of 80 decibels.
"The reading was taken at 9.16 pm. The noise is generally so much during Navratri that our windows shake. It is true that loudspeakers are allowed till 10 pm, but isn't there any cap on the noise levels? And there is a private hospital nearby as well. How can we have such loudspeakers within 100 m of the hospital?" Jadhav asked. The Kora Kendra reading at 9.20 pm was 78.3 db on Wednesday night.