On Tuesday, around 50 elderly persons, including prominent doctors, engineers, environmentalists as well as people from other walks of life, have petitioned to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, requesting immediate intervention in stopping noise menace during the coming New Year celebrations.
“We are a group of concerned senior citizens, who are approaching you, through Sabuj Mancha, with a problem of great urgency … We are referring to the possibility of a drastic increase in pollution because of the indiscriminate use of firecrackers, fireworks, amplifiers, music systems, loudspeakers etc during … New Year celebrations,” says the letter.
“The noise pollution problem happens all round the year but increases during festivals affecting all, particularly the elderly,” said Dulal Bose, former sheriff of Kolkata and ENT specialist, who is also a signatory.
Former head of Birla Institute of Technology, Samar Bagchi, economist Subhendu Dasgupta, former director of All India Institute of Public Health and Hygiene, Arunabha Majumdar, journalist and media educator Buroshiva Dasgupta as well as WWF India’s Bengal chapter director, Saswati Mukherjee, were among the other signatories.
“In spite of distinct legal guidelines and orders, the rampant abuse of noise pollution norms has become a regular feature of most festivities … many senior citizens have health issues that are severely aggravated by loud noise and air pollution,” the letter mentioned.
“The arousal threshold is generally very low for elderly people particularly a large proportion who take sleeping pills, Hence, any untimely noise, particularly in winter nights when noise travels farther, can impact their sleep pattern and trigger mental and physical health problems,” observed physician Arup Halder, a sleep expert.
Krishnajyoti Goswami, another medical professional, said lack of sleep often leads to psychological disorders among the elders.
“The National Green Tribunal had directed in 2019 and during October 2021, the PCB had issued orders directing the compulsory use of sound limiters and bursting of green crackers only on designated days and time, but we have seen how the norms have been flouted time and again especially during cricket and football world cup matches and other occasions, but the PCB and police have hardly taken any action,” complained Naba Dutta, secretary of Sabuj Mancha.
The Union government’s norms say that green crackers are only allowed four days a year, including the Christmas and the New Year eve. The norms of green crackers alongside the existing noise level bar in the state under the judicial and administrative orders only allow fireworks without any significant noise output in the city.
“All users of audio systems/microphones within West Bengal are hereby directed to use sound limiters while operating in open areas to avoid penal action,” reads the order dated October 10, issued by the PCB member secretary, Rajesh Kumar.
However, the West Bengal pollution control board has recently filed an affidavit with the National Green Tribunal which revealed that apart from Hooghly rural and Purba Medinipur, none of the regional police administrations in state, including Kolkata Police, had registered a single case of noise violation due to loudspeaker and DJ box during the Diwali celebrations, despite several complaints to both the police and the PCB.
“Everybody has the right to write a letter. I can only respond, once I go through it,” said West Bengal environment minister, Manas Bhunia, on Tuesday evening.