Need tough laws to curb noise pollution

This is an appeal to all the members of this august body. For the last three decades everyone has been talking about all kinds of pollution. Air. Seas. Rivers. Forests. Land. You name it, they have all been a matter of what they call “deep concern”. No one, however, talks about another equally horrible manifestation of pollution: noise pollution. It’s pervasive. It’s dangerous. And it’s annoying. And it’s accepted. You only have to listen to the ads on Indian TV. You are intently listening to the quiet cricket commentary and the over ends. And BANG! the TV explodes into loud noise and you have to scramble for the remote to mute it. And if it’s not easily reachable you have to suffer the yelling and the awful jingles. The problem is worse in the summer when the fans and ACs are whirring away. Then the TV is playing at a higher decibel level anyway. Or, if the windows are open, there is the intolerable street noise of hawkers, horns and hounds. When I asked a TV manufacturer why the ads were so loud he said the base sound-setting in India was very high because of ambient sound like the ones mentioned above. Believe me, mein herren und dammen, the only person who I envy is my 95-year-old mother. She is completely deaf.

When you go out for a walk you can’t hear yourself think, let alone speak. It’s an unspeakable assault on your ears.

One of the biggest irritants is the constant construction activity, both near and far. About 10 years ago the house next to ours was brought down entirely by the new buyer who wanted to build afresh. The housing society where I live refused the new owners permission to use that heavy ball that swings from a crane. That device would have done it in a day. Instead, they used large hammers and it took three weeks of massive hammering. The furniture in our house would jump up from time to time. It was a truly horrible time. Likewise when they were building a 22-storey building just outside our campus they would slide the extra materials and waste down a tin chute — from that great height. I can’t describe the continuous noise. It was horrendous, like living inside a jet engine. This went on for six months. If that wasn’t bad enough there was all the cutting and grinding of marble. The constant high-pitched sound of stone cutting can drive you crazy. What’s worse there’s no one you can complain to. Work must go on after all, noise pollution be damned.

Recently a new noise has been added. Fortunately it comes once a week but, and this is a big but, it comes on the day when you expect some quietude. Sunday. It’s the sound of motorcycles, hundreds of them from about 6 in the morning till about 11 am. The fellows who don’t have naturally powerful and therefore loud bikes remove a disc — so I am told — on the exhaust pipe.  That makes them louder than their more powerful cousins. And believe me it’s horrible to have these men and women racing along the broad roads of our town. When you go out for a walk you can’t hear yourself think, let alone speak. It’s an unspeakable assault on your ears.

I have looked at the laws on sound pollution. There are hardly any. But that’s not the main problem because new laws can always be made. The real problem is measurement and enforcement in case there is a violation. Hence my appeal at the start of this article. The highly accomplished members of Rotary must come together to apply their minds with a view to at least reducing if not eliminating the menace of noise pollution. Other countries have done it. Why not us also?

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