Noise pollution is a major issue in today’s urban areas. From factories to vehicles, from machinery to daily equipment, everything produces a noise that is having a significant impact on the ambient environment as well as the health and well being of humans.
In India, an added problem is that Indians are naturally a very noisy group of people. Every occasion, big or small, is celebrated with a lot of fanfare and noise. If you don’t believe me (my non-Indian readers), please YouTube Indian weddings for more on this.
Recognizing the harmful effects of noise, the Indian government included measures to abate noise pollution under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. Noise pollution was one of the categories being addressed under this Act. However, in the late 1990’s, the government decided to come out with a separate legislation solely focusing on noise pollution. Thus was born, Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
Under this Act, the legislation has divided all areas into 4 categories viz.
- Industrial Areas (A)
- Commercial Areas (B)
- Residential Areas (C)
- Silence Zones (D)
Each of these areas have an ambient air quality standard (AAQS) specified for day (6 AM to 10 PM) and night (10 PM to 6 AM) times. The standards are as follows:
What does decibels mean? Understanding and visualizing decibels
Understanding decibels (dB) is not intuitive to most people. The unique aspect of measuring sound is that sound levels change over very short periods of time and over very short distances. If you turn your TV volume up to 50 and stand right close to the TV, you’ll probably get a headache. But if you are standing 10 meters away, you would barely be able to hear it.
To overcome this, the unit *Leq is used to quantify sound levels for measurement purposes, where the sound energy is accounted for over a period of time, and an “equivalent” sound value is given to describe that sound. If you are interested to know more about what (A) means, check out this link.
Also, Decibels is a logarithmic scale, which means they cannot be added or subtracted directly. A doubling of sound energy increases the sound level by 3 dB. Quadrupling increases it by 6 dB. The same rule applies when you reduce the sound energy.
Here is a basic idea of what the sound levels are supposed to be like:
- An airplane taking off will produce a sound of 100 dB(A) if you were standing 300 meters away. If you were standing at 25 meters from the jet as it takes off, the sound would be 150 dB(A), which would rupture your eardrums.
- 80 dB(A) is the sound of your alarm going off in the morning (are you alarmed that its louder than the permissible limit in industrial areas?)
- 70 dB(A) is what you would experience when a car travels at 100 kmph with you standing approximately 6 meters away. It is also roughly the sound of a vaccum cleaner in your room, or your TV volume raised to a comfortable hearing level within your room.
- 55 dB(A) is approximately equivalent to the sound of conversations in a restaurant, if you were standing at the entrance trying to listen to all the conversations.
- 45 dB(A) is the sound of birds chirping in the morning. You generally do not find urban areas with a lower sound level than that.
- 40 dB(A) is the sound you would hear in a library, or the low hum of your computer.
- 20 dB(A) is the sound of rustling leaves in a light breeze, as you enjoy a wonderful monsoon evening with chai.
- 10 dB(A) is the sound of your breathing. It is barely audible.
- 0 dB(A) is when humans stop being able to hear any sound.
The legislation further states:
- The State Government has the authority to designate different areas under different categories or “area codes”.
- The authority to take decisions pertaining to the implementation of these rules is to be designated by the Central government, and can be the District Magistrate, Police Commissioner, etc.
- It is mandatory that an area of 100 meters around hospitals, educational institutions and courts be designated as silence zones.
- These rules shall always be taken into consideration before the construction of any project.
Under this Act, the use of loudspeakers, megaphones, and any other form of public address system has been regulated. They shall not be allowed to function in public after 10 PM and till 6 AM. Violation of this can result in a penalty, under provisions of this Act. The authority given the responsibility of upholding this Act can take action and order the prohibition of the use of any of these articles if he/she receives a complaint. Non-compliance after the issue of this order, can result in imprisonment.
Noise has been an underrated form of pollution for a long time, but with the advent of this Act, due importance has been given to it. Now that you know, let’s try and quiet down, shall we?