deafening sounds

Indians continue to honk despite studies that show perils of noise pollution

EARTHQUAKE-AFGHANISTAN/ Representational image | Reuters

Even as the world celebrated 'No Honking Day' on April 25, vehicles on roads in urban India remained oblivious to the high levels of noise they were contributing to pollution. As per WHO’s estimate, around one million healthy lives are lost due to the deafening sounds.

Noise pollution—a by-product of urbanisation and industrialisation—is now recognised as a major problem in urban India, which is causing several adverse health effects. A 20-second exposure to a 120-decibel ambulance siren can cause temporary hearing loss. According to a study, 'Noise Pollution: Non-auditory Effects on Health,' published in British Medical Bulletin, noise or incessant honking interferes in complex task performance, modifies social behaviour, and causes annoyance and hypertension. Another study, carried out by Cooper Hospital on 250 traffic policemen, who were exposed to noise for over eight hours each day, showed that 30 per cent of them had high-frequency hearing loss, and a much higher percentage of them suffered hypertension.

A lot many initiatives are being taken, especially by way of citizen activism, to curb the growing menace of abnormally high noise levels on the roads, and unnecessary honking. The residents of Mahim, Mumbai, started the 'Do Not Honk' campaign, in association with the traffic police in the area this month, urging bike riders and car drivers to reduce unnecessary and relentless honking. Earlier this year, Awaaz Foundation, an NGO that works towards curbing noise pollution in the city, started a unique initiative, 'HornVrat', which literally translates to 'fast from honking,' in order to encourage drivers in Mumbai to refrain from unnecessary honking, in association with Maharashtra Transport Department, Rickshawmen's Union, and Mumbai Police.

Normally, a human being cannot bear to hear a sound beyond 100 decibels. However, we have noise levels that far exceed the prescribed limits, said Avinash Supe, dean, KEM Hospital, Mumbai. "Loud noise can cause many health issues. In fact, those who suffer from high BP have chances of suffering a massive heart attack too.” He further explained that more than 80 decibels is bad for the ears, and if sounds at this level persist for a stretch of over eight hours, then one can possibly become deaf.

The Maharashtra government, on April 24, launched a ‘No Honking Logo’ as part of the state government’s initiative to spread the awareness about ‘no honking’ among citizens.