CSE surveys noise pollution in Delhi

CSE does noise level survey, finds many areas in Delhi crossing the norms

  • Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) Pollution Monitoring Lab tracks noise levels in Delhi and finds them to be very high in some places 

  • Constant exposure to noise can have serious health implications, ranging from deafness to heart conditions to sleep disorders

  •  What is needed is better data, more effective monitoring and stricter enforcement of regulations  

New Delhi, September 16, 2011: Delhi has some of the noisiest roads in the country, a recent decibel survey by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found. For instance, the ITO intersection sees noise levels going up as high as 106 decibels due to constant vehicular honking - a veritable rock concert on the streets. The standard for a silence zone is 50 decibels, while it is 55 decibels for residential areas.

Constant exposure to noise has serious health impacts. Prolonged exposure to noise above the decibel level of 60 can lead to irreversible Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). The findings of the survey have been published in the science and environment fortnightly Down To Earth.

Complete DTE story
Sep 30, 2011
Deafening Noise
Author(s): Sayantan Bera, Ankur Paliwal, Sumana Narayanan
Decibel journey across Delhi: the CSE survey
Researchers from CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory journeyed across the capital recording sound levels using a manual meter. The lab took the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) 55-decibel limit for residential areas as the standard for comparison.

The results showed the noise level going up to a high of 100 decibels in the commercial and industrial zones, followed by the residential zone touching a 90 decibel maximum during traffic time.

The noisiest area surveyed was the marble market in Kirti Nagar: a maximum of 125 decibel. Meena Bazar, in Jama Masjid, recorded a high of 102.8 decibel, its narrow lanes bustling with activity during Eid. The Anand Vihar Inter State Bus Terminal and the Sangam Vihar bus stop in south Delhi recorded a maximum of 108 and 114 decibels, respectively.

The quietest area, according to the CSE survey, is the Biotech Research Institute in Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa Institutional Area – with an average level of 55 decibels. For the complete survey map of Delhi’s noisiest places, please visit http://www.cseindia.org/decibel_tour_delhi.pdf

In 2011, the CPCB recorded the ambient noise in Delhi and other four cities, according to which the ambient noise recorded a maximum of 97 decibel in Dilshad Garden’s silent zone.

What are the health implications of noise?
We can detect sound at 10 decibels, hear a conversation at 60 decibels and are able sustain the thudding noise inside a night club at 110 decibels. Sound becomes painful as it reaches 120 decibels.

Chronic exposure to sound beyond 85 decibels for eight hours can cause irreversible hearing loss. A 140-decibel sound impulse next to the ear can tear the eardrum. Every increase of 10 decibels makes the sound twice as loud to the human ear.

There is little data on the incidence of hearing loss in the country, but doctors claim that such cases are increasing. Many suffer from low hearing because of medical problems like diabetes enhanced by the exposure to noise. For autistic kids, the plight is worse: some hear sound louder than it actually is.

A 2011 World Health Organization report ranks sleep disturbance and annoyance as major components of the health burden due to noise. Other impacts are heart diseases and cognitive impairment in children.

So what are we doing about it?
Under the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, the CPCB provides noise norms for four different types of zones -- industrial, commercial, residential and silence. Industrial zones are allowed 75 decibels noise during daytime and 70 decibels during the night. Commercial zones can be 65 decibels loud during the day and 55 decibels at night. Residential zones cannot exceed noise limit of 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels during night hours. And the sound level in silence zones must not be more than 50 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night.
According to standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards, 125 is the maximum decibel limit for horns used in commercial vehicles, while 105 is the maximum for two wheelers. A violation can lead to seizure of the driver’s licence or a fine under the Motor Vehicles Act.

CSE researchers say: “India lacks monitoring capacity – and therefore, data -- on noise. The lack of data, and consequently, awareness, makes people complacent.” Fifty per cent of NIHL is preventive, say experts.

The CPCB has now begun to rectify things: in April 2010, it launched an ambitious Real Time Ambient Noise Monitoring Network. The initial stage of this three-phase project covers seven cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Lucknow.

CSE researchers say the Union environment ministry needs to enforce regulations strictly, after the real-time data monitoring system is put in place.

For more details, please get in touch with Vibha Varshney at vibha@cseindia.org or call her at 7838383969.