Loud and clear: Noise hurts health, mind

Most Indians are noisy by nature.
Most Indians are noisy by nature.
Be it announcing good news, leading a procession through the city, celebrating a marriage or a religious festival or even just chattering with a group of friends, we like to be heard loud and clear. The pollution created in the process is a health hazard having impact on everything -from brain to heart.

From the cacophonous noise of peak-hour traffic to the deafening sound of planes taking off several kilometres away , the sound of hand-blender to the hum of the washing machine at home, disturbing noise levels of routine activities affect everyone as much as the thunderous Ganapati immersion procession once a year.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s report on ambient noise monitoring of six major cities of the state in December 2014 found noise levels in Pune mostly exceeded the permissible limit on not only working days, but even on holidays.

Everyday activities that have become a constant companion to our existence -the constant metallic sounds of construction at sites across the road, the loud vroom of neighbours’ sports bikes and even the jingling radio entertaining the listener throughout the day via earphones, every sound vibration is slowly taking us closer to the brink of intolerance.

It’s unfortunate, though, that noise pollution continues to get step-motherly treatment when compared to other health hazards, including air and soil pollution.

Experts studying the problem point to the slow, but serious physical, mental and psychological effects of loud or disturbingly high volumes of noise among humans.

In the same report, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board raised an alarm about this form of pollution.

“Noise is a disturbance to the human environment that is escalating at such a high rate that it will become a major threat to the quality of human lives,” the report stated, pointing out that noise levels in all areas, especially in urban settings, had been increasing rapidly over the past three decades.

According to the board, even noisy people are a source of pollution.

It’s ironic then, that noise pollution levels in Pune are seriously studied only during the annual 10-day Ganapati festivals and not evaluated through the rest of the year, those working to raise awareness of its hazards point out.

Sumaira Abdulali, a crusader against noise pollution and the founder of Awaaz Foundation, says, “Pune has expanded very fast in the last decade and has turned out to be the hub of IT and auto industries. In the growth of its real estate and traffic, it is keeping pace with Mumbai -having the unenviable distinction of being the noisiest city in the world. It’s sad that noise pollution monitoring authorities do not even have data of the noise levels in Pune.Corrective action can only follow concrete evidence.”

Noise pollution affects every organ of the human body , Abdulali points out, questioning the lackadaisical approach of the ministry of environment in expanding its noise monitoring network to cities like Pune, despite a proposal floated in 2010.

“The government misleads citizens when it says that a few days of being exposed to noise during the Ganapati festival is okay . Everything -from our gradual hearing impairment to irritability and road rage -has its roots in our constant exposure to noise pollution,” she says.

“We do not realise it but our personalities are undergoing change because of the disturbing effects of noise all around us,” explains Kalyani Mandke, an expert in audiology .

“Everything, from the jarring noise of the mixer or the vaccum cleaner at home, to the noise of carpenters drilling or making interiors in a flat two floors above, and even the constant vibrations of music playing in our ears through earphones are causing serious changes in our body . From general fatigue to irritability , intolerance and short temper -everything is related to the noise around us.It’s unfortunate, though, that most citizens are not aware of it and don’t fully grasp the repercursions,” she says.

With this new series of articles, The Times of India will highlight multiple aspects of noise pollution in Pune and its effects on citizens, besides gathering momentum to spread awareness and reducing the decibel levels.


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