The state government’s plan to revise the demarcation of silence zones in the city has run into trouble. Awaaz Foundation, the NGO which played a key role in amending the noise pollution rules, has registered its protest against the plan to soften the rules and remap the silence zones.
“The state plans to remap the silence zones by redefining hospitals and educational institutions. We feel that the primary motive for this is to enable politicians hold rallies even near hospitals,” said Sumaira Abdulali, Awaaz Foundation. Recently, while Union minister for environment Jairam Ramesh was in Mumbai, the environment department had approached him with the plan to re-demarcate the silence zones.
Currently, silence zones include courts, hospitals and educational institutions, and loud noise and fire crackers are prohibited around 100 metres from the silence zones. “We have been measuring noise levels during festivals and special functions since 2003 and these levels far exceed those prescribed, especially in sensitive areas which have been defined as silence zones when loudspeakers or firecrackers are used,” she said.
However, those who support the demarcation plan have a different view. “There is either a nursing home or a school or college at every corner. If all these are marked as silence zones, how can we function,” said Naresh Dahibawkar, secretary, Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti, the coordination committee of all Ganesh pandals in the city.
According to Abdulali, the overwhelming majority of residents of Mumbai are against being disturbed by noise from politically-controlled festivals and rallies. “This negative step would result in long-term adverse health effects on residents. We have asked the union minister to intervene in this matter and ensure that this plan does not materialise,” Abdulali said.