Noise Pollution: letís follow our neighbour

The Supreme Courtís interim decision banning the use of loud speakers after 10 p.m. till 6 a.m. will be hailed as a victory by the majority of citizens in this country. Noise pollution is a sign of underdevelopment not only economically but also socially and spiritually. There are provisions in our Constitution with regard to the obligations of the State and the citizens: under Article 27(14) the State to protect, preserve and improve the environment; Article 28 (F) duties and obligations of everyone to protect the environment. It is obvious therefore that the decision of the Courts is a reminder to us about our own obligations.

Our neighbour India took action in this regard much earlier. Indiaís Supreme Court has banned loud music, firecrackers and the honking of vehicle horns from 2200 to 0600 hours. Noise created by horns of vehicles, pressure horns in automobiles, loudspeakers, denting or painting of cars, particularly, in residential areas and from unauthorised premises, use of loudspeakers in religious places such as temples, mosques, churches, and other places being discontinued or at least regulated, firecrackers burst during festivals and on other occasions for fun or merry making were prohibited completely, if the noise created exceed certain decibels.

The ruling came in response to a public interest lawsuit which called for action against noisemakers. Health experts argued noise pollution in India is a major cause of heart attacks and other stress related illnesses. So these are the lessons that we can take from our giant neighbour. Those who make noise often take shelter pleading freedom of speech and the right to religious freedom and expression. Undoubtedly, the freedom of speech and right to expression are fundamental rights but the rights of one person should not infringe the rights of others. Nobody can claim a fundamental right to create noise by amplifying the sound of his speech with the help of loudspeakers. While one has a right to speech, others have a right to listen or decline to listen.

With the making of the Interim Order on the loudspeakers some have invented methods of having music and merry making without using electronic equipment, believing that they can circumvent the law by doing so.

Noise not only causes irritation or annoyance but it does also constrict the arteries, and increases the flow of adrenaline and forces the heart to work faster, thereby accelerating the rate of cardiac ailment, the reason being that continuous noise causes an increase in the cholesterol level resulting in permanent constriction of blood vessels, making one prone to heart attacks and strokes. Health experts are of the opinion that excessive noise can also lead to neurosis and nervous breakdown. There has been a high incidence of emotional disorders among people living near airports.

The following decisions of the Indian Courts also may be considered by the Ministry of Environment when laws are formulated: The peripheral noise level of privately owned sound systems should not exceed by more than 5 dB(A) than the ambient air quality standard specified for the area in which it is used, at the boundary of the private premises;

No horn should be allowed to be used (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) in residential areas except in exceptional circumstances; There is a need for creating general awareness towards the hazardous effects of noise pollution. Suitable chapters may be added in the text-books which teach civic sense to the children and youth at the initial/early level of education; the lighting of firecrackers during festival times to be curtailed.

Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam


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