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Noise pollution


The political controversy in Maharashtra over the demand to remove loudspeakers from mosques raises some fundamental questions regarding noise pollution.


GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Definition of ‘noise’ under the law
  2. Threshold for acceptable level of noise
  3. Noise pollution impact on health
  4. What are the rules around the use of loudspeakers?

Definition of ‘noise’ under the law

  • As per the Central Pollution Control Board’s mandate for noise pollution, ‘noise’ is defined as unwanted sound. Sound, which pleases the listener, is music and that which causes pain and annoyance is noise.
  • At times, what is music for some can be noise for others.
  • Any unwanted sound that causes annoyance, irritation and pain to the human ear is termed ‘noise’.
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000:
  • Section 2 (a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 includes noise in the definition of ‘air pollutant’.
  • Noise pollution and its sources are regulated under The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 under The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The Act has defined ambient acceptable noise levels, silence zones, restrictions on the use of loudspeakers, horns, sound-emitting construction equipment, and bursting of crackers.
  • It has also laid down the responsibility for enforcement.

Threshold for acceptable level of noise

  • Noise pollution Rules have defined the acceptable level of noise in different zones for both daytime and nighttime.
  • In industrial areas, the permissible limit is 75 decibels for daytime, and 70 dB for night.
  • Daytime is defined as the period from 6 am to 10 pm, and night is 10 pm to 6 am of the following day.
  • In commercial areas, these ceilings are fixed at 65 dB and 55 dB, while in residential areas they are 55 dB and 45 dB during daytime and night respectively.
  • In silence zones, i.e., an area comprising not less than 100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions and courts, it is 50 dB in the daytime and 40 dB during the night.

Noise pollution impact on health

  • While noise pollution does not receive as much attention as air and water pollution, it is known to impact the health of people.
  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12–35 years) are at the risk of hearing loss due to noise exposure.
  • The WHO has stated that there is sufficient evidence that noise exposure at night causes self-reported sleep disturbance and noise-induced sleep disturbance is viewed as a health problem.
  • WHO also states there is evidence, albeit limited, that disturbed sleep causes fatigue, accidents and reduced performance.
  • Various physical disorders due to higher noise include temporary deafness, headache and an increase in blood pressure.

What are the rules around the use of loudspeakers?

  • The noise level at the boundary of the public place, where a loudspeaker or public address system or any other noise source is being used, shall not exceed 10 dB (A) above the ambient noise standards for the area or 75 dB (A), whichever is lower.
  • The rules also state that a loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from the designated authority.
  • The state government can provide exemption during any cultural or religious festive occasion of a limited duration not exceeding 15 days in all during a calendar year.
  • In a report filed with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on June 12, 2020, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) listed fines for the violation of noise pollution norms.
  • The violation of norms regarding the use of loudspeakers/public address systems can result in seizure of the equipment, and a fine of Rs 10,000.

Source: Indian Express

February 2024