The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sound of silence a basic right

GITANATH GANGULY, convener and special officer of the sound-monitoring committee set up by Calcutta High Court, met readers of The Telegraph at Legal Aid Services West Bengal (Lasweb), at 5, Kiron Shankar Roy Road. Participants included Lt.Col. (retd.) Shakti Banerjee, Anita Mukherjee, Sampa Hazra, Barid Behari Chowdhury, Balaram Bardhan, Pradeep Mondal, Dwipen Kumar Hazra, Snigdha Gohain, Chanchal Dutta and Bhabendranath Ghosh

Lt. Col. (retd.) Shakti Banerjee: How can it be determined whether a person is violating noise pollution control rules by playing a microphone or bursting crackers'

Originally, it was a judicially-oriented movement. Now, the law has been enacted and is in operation. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, under the ministry of environment and forests notification, New Delhi, of February 2, 2000, relating to the Environment Protection Act, 1986, is made applicable and under Section 15 of the Act, if a person violates the provisions, there can be a fine of Rs 1 lakh and also imprisonment for five years.

Lt. Col. (retd.) Shakti Banerjee: How are decibels measured'

There is an instrument by which decibel limits can be measured. It is called a sound level meter. There is also the sound limiter that is fitted to a microphone. Under the rules, in an industrial area, the sound limit is 75 decibels by day and 70 by night. In commercial areas, the limit is 65 decibels by day and 55 by night. In residential areas, you cannot exceed 55 decibels by day and 45 by night.

In addition, there is a silence zone, where during the day, the decibel limit is 50 and at night 40. A silence zone refers to hospitals, educational institutions and court premises. No microphones can be played around 100 metres of a silence zone.

Lt. Col. (retd.) Shakti Banerjee: Is action ever taken against decibel devils'

Under the law, the police must take action. Any citizen can move court and if necessary, the human rights commission, as redress relates to the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution.

Sampa Hazra: Is there any easy way to measure sound levels'

We do not have any specific equipment for measuring sound levels. The easiest way is to check that the level is low enough not to disturb our sleep.

Sampa Hazra: Generators in some multi-storeyed buildings can be extremely harsh on the ears.

If a generator crosses the sound limit set for the area, then it is a cognisable offence. However, it should be remembered that it is an urban problem and sometimes, some instruments causing pollution serve the need of life.

Barid Behari Chowdhury: My 90-year-old mother lives with me. My next-door neighbour uses an air-conditioner that emits hot air. Requests to restrict the use have fallen on deaf ears.

Actually, we measure sound limits. However, for your pains, you can move a civil court.

Pradeep Mondal: Whom does one call in case of sound pollution'

You can inform the local police station. In the city proper, call 214-3230 / 214-5000. In the district, ring 221-5411/13 or the pollution control board at 335-8211/12. One is not bound to disclose his or her identity.

Anita Mukherjee: We residents of Baidyabati have to suffer blaring microphones even at night.

This problem can be avoided by generating public awareness. It should be remembered that in every area, there are children, senior citizens and ailing persons. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” is the doctrine of the scriptures.

Anita Mukherjee: The neighbouring flat-owners keep their television on all day and night and quite loudly too. Repeated complaints have had no effect.

Under the new noise pollution regulation control rules, if any instrument, including a loudspeaker, public address system or appliances capable of producing or reproducing sound exceeds the limit, one can inform the local police station.

Dwipen Kumar Hazra: Some government employees organise meetings during office hours and use microphones too. Is there any way to check it'

If it is within 100 metres of a silence zone, then it is a cognisable offence.

Snigdha Gohain: Automobiles cause various types of pollution. Is there any check on them'

You can call up the local police station for action.

Chanchal Dutta: Some buses use electric horns that are quite deafening.

The use of air or electric horns is totally banned. If anyone is found to be violating the rule, action can be taken.

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