The Mumbai Police have announced a `no honking day' today. Controlling noise from honking and traffic is an important step towards reducing overall noise levels in Mumbai, one of thenoisiest cities in the world.
Traffic noise has been named as a leading contributor to noise pollution in a detailed study conducted by the National Environmental Engineering Institute (NEERI) in 2019. Horns fitted vehicles in India are louder than those in most parts of the world, including the home countries of many car manufacturers in the European Union and Far East. They sometimes measure more than 110 dB and most are over 85dB.
High decibel noise very bad for health
Such high noise levels cause hearing loss, and other illnesses including heart disease, mental health illness and contribute to other illnesses caused by sleeplessness. Noise can even precipitate heart attacks and doctors say it can cause cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.
In Mumbai, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, millions of people are constantly exposed to noise from excessive honking which continues through the day and night in places where people are especially vulnerable to adverse health effects. At crowded junctions including the JJ Hospital junction at Mohamedali Road, areas near hospitals like Lilavati Hospital and Sion Hospital, near schools and courts, honking is near continuous.
Noise Pollution level in Mumbai is very high
Noise Pollution is one of the most pervasive but lesser-known pollutants which adversely affects the health of all those who are exposed to it. Executive Director of the United Nations Inger Andersen said in an Oped on 27th March 2022 “As cities become more crowded, their soundscapes become a global public health menace.”
The first No Honking Day in India was held in 2008 and was led by Acting Joint Commissioner of Police Hemant Karkare and Deputy Commissioner of Police Harish Baijal, in partnership with Awaaz Foundation. For the first time, anti-honking Rules were enforced and 16,000 challans were issued to motorists who honked unnecessarily within a single day.
A few years later, when Baijal was posted at Nashik, the police department seized and crushed crores worth of illegal pressure horns under road rollers. The annual Road Safety Week or Month has included awareness against honking for the past several years and the year 2018 was declared a No Honking Year by the Government of Maharashtra.
In 2022, the Motor Vehicles Rules were amended to increase the fines for excessive honking to Rs. 2000. Then Commissioner of Police Sanjay Pandey announced ‘No Honking Wednesday’ for several weeks.
Noise Pollution Awareness Campaign
In 2018, the RTO, Police and Government conducted a month-long awareness campaign in partnership with Awaaz Foundation and the Mumbai Rickshaw Men's Union when a rickshaw fitted with hundreds of blow-horns and the message ‘Mumbai Honks 18 million times anhour’ was driven voluntarily across Mumbai to create awareness. In 2020, the Mumbai
Police released a campaign ‘The Punishing Signal’ where the signal continued red for longer periods if motorists honked unnecessarily. Though these campaigns created awareness, enforcement continues to lag as there are no continuous action plans for enforcement of existing anti-noise Rules. In the absence of long-term effective drives akin to the ant-drunk driving, seatbelt and helmet drives, noise pollution from traffic in Mumbai continues to increase.
It is only with long-term action to enforce anti-honking rules and to restrict the decibel level of horns fitted into vehicles that the levels will reduce and Mumbaikars can hope for some measure of peace and quiet in their day to day lives.
(The author is convenor of Awaaz Foundation, which is doing commendable work against noise pollution)