With the Devi comes the decibels, and complaints from residents about noise pollution.
The grumbles heard so far this year are not just about loudspeakers and crackers. Some residents of ward 85 in south Calcutta have petitioned the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (PCB) to “take urgent measures” to curb the cacophony caused by generators used to run the Deshapriya Park puja fair.
Every year, a mela with a merry-go-round, toy train and other mechanised rides takes over the park from Durga puja to Lakshmi puja. The problem, according to local residents, is the constant noise it produces. The exhibition runs on power from numerous generators that continue late into the night on festival days.
“We have spoken to the authorities a number of times over the years to do something about the noise pollution, with no effect. So this year, we have lodged a complaint with the PCB beforehand to stop the nuisance. But the mela is already being set up,” complained an angry resident.
Biswajit Mukherjee, senior law officer, PCB, said the board has “noted the complaint,” saying that “suitable action will be taken to ensure that environmental laws are not flouted”. PCB officials said such complaints against generators were on the rise, but it was “virtually impossible” to address the issue because of the sheer numbers.
“We have to address the problem on a case-to-case basis,” added PCB officials.
According to notification on the “standards and guidelines for control of noise pollution from stationary diesel generator sets”, effective since 1998 under the environment protection act, anybody running a generator more than 5 KVA needs permission from the board.
The PCB can interfere in cases where the generator is smaller than this only if a public complaint is lodged. Even the smaller machines must be run within “a mandatory acoustic enclosure”.
PCB officials admitted that most do not stick to the rules, especially during the festive season. Most of the machines are usually of local make and are badly maintained, adding to the pollution.
But Gitanath Ganguly, the high court-appointed noise-control officer, feels the police have adequate rights, under the new noise regulations, to act independently. Ganguly also reported a rise in similar complaints, admitting that there is a need to look into the matter.
Local councillor Debasish Kumar has also received a number of complaints, but has not, apparently, taken any action.
Apart from complaints about the noise produced by generators, the more regular puja-time complaints of blaring loudspeakers had already started pouring in by Sashthi evening, mainly from north Calcutta. The information was being forwarded to the police, which had, reportedly, already taken action in some of the cases.