New Delhi: Noise pollution limits are being breached in India’s cities and the violations are the worst in Mumbai, a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) analysis has found.

Delhi is the fourth noisiest Indian city, while Bengaluru and Kolkata have seen the fewest violations of noise rules.

In Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane, all stations show prescribed norms to have been exceeded and four stations installed at Vashi Hospital, ASHP, Bandra and at the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board headquarters showed 100% exceedance of the prescribed limits, noted the analysis released last week.

India’s apex pollution watchdog conducted real-time continuous ambient noise monitoring at 35 locations in nine cities with populations of over a million each, including Delhi, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

Data was collected for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

As per the CPCB study, “maximum violations of prescribed limits were observed in Mumbai, followed by Lucknow, Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai."

“Bengaluru and Kolkata have observed the least number of violations with respect to the prescribed norms," it added.

In March 2011, the central government set up the National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network (NANMN) through CPCB and the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) to monitor noise on a 24x7 basis in India’s seven largest cities.

Under NANMN, 70 monitoring stations have been set up in seven cities—10 each in Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Mumbai (including Navi Mumbai)—which are operated by state-level pollution control boards.

The CPCB analysis asked state governments “to take measures for abatement of pollution emanating from various noise sources and ensure that the existing level do not exceed the ambient noise standards".

It wanted a ban on residential colonies from being built near industrial areas and suggested the construction of vegetation buffer zones and roadside plantations in cities.

“Awareness programmes shall be organized as most of the noise is generated because of improper and inefficient usage of resources. Unorganized, highly congested commercial activity should not be encouraged in proximity to the residential colonies," the study said.

The pollution watchdog also said media, central and state governments, municipal bodies and pollution control boards should create awareness among students and public at large to avoid bursting of firecrackers.

The most common source of noise pollution by far, the one that affects the most people, is motor vehicles.

Aircraft and industrial machinery are also major sources, while office machines, sirens, power tools, and other equipment are additional sources of noise pollution.

The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, were last amended in January 2010 to reduce noise levels at night and from public address systems.

The government is now working on devising new noise pollution standards (see www.mintne.ws/1P0YKF8).

Activists said the implementation of rules holds the key to reducing noise pollution.

“Even though we have started noise pollution monitoring in some cities, there are no city-wise noise pollution mitigation plans. So, most of the time, the focus is on specific sources that need to be addressed, like loudspeakers and firecrackers. But there is absolutely no clarity on monitoring ambient noise levels 24X7, like what we do with air quality. Thus, now is the time for the state pollution control boards to come up with that kind of planning. In addition, we also need to assess the current noise standards from the different sources of noise such as vehicles," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, at Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, an environmental organization.

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