What you should do if noise pollution bothers you this Deepavali

LAWS AGAINST NOISE POLLUTION

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Deepavali is here. The traffic-congested, pothole-filled streets of Chennai are covered in decorations: string lights adorn the cracker shops, fancy numbers from Kollywood and continuous chants from temples add to the festive fervour. Shopping season is in full swing and firecracker stalls are popping up at street corners. The sounds of the occasional Lakshmi vedi have already begun to startle unwitting passers by as some have begun their celebrations well in advance. In the coming days, the decibels from these crackers will intensify. 

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However, not all can enjoy the festivities and look forward to Diwali celebrations at the peak with equal gusto, the only reason for that being noise. Noise emanating from high decibel crackers and blaring loudspeakers makes life miserable and creates paranoia among elderly citizens, pregnant women and babies, and pets.

In the past, as citizens went on a cracker bursting spree, a lot of traumatised pets ran away from their homes. In 2017, a cattle shed in suburban Madipakkam caught fire from stray crackers, burning alive five cows and leaving three more with severe injuries. 

“The situation was bad even last year, with pet dogs and cats getting hurt and running away from homes. It is a tough time for the pets till January, as cracker bursting goes on till January,” Dawn Williams, general manager of Blue Cross told Citizen Matters. He hopes that the awareness created in educational institutions will bring about a change this year.

Considering the magnitude of the situation, it is important that citizens wage a battle against noise pollution. It is not the problem of pet owners alone, as noise pollution is a public health issue causing headaches and nerve-related problems in many. 

When can you complain?

Recently, the Supreme Court has ordered all  states to burst crackers only for two hours a day, in the evening. However, a slight exception has been made for Tamil Nadu in view of local tradition and the TNPCB has fixed two slots between 6 am to 7 am and between 7 pm to 8 pm. Citizens can complain if anyone is violating these direction. 

Besides firecrackers, there are other sources of noise such as indiscriminate use of speakers and generator sets, construction and public works and indoor sources such as air conditioners etc. Let’s check out what the law states. 

Source: Central Pollution Control Board 

According to the Noise Regulations Act and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) act, 1981, the permissible levels of noise are different for different locality types. 

Locality type Permissible levels(day and night on average)* Whom to complain to
Residential 55 dB and 45 dB  Local police
Industrial  75 dB and 70 dB Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board
Commercial (shopping zones such as T Nagar) 65 dB and 55 dB Local Police
Silent (hospital and school zones) 50 dB and 40 dB Local police

*Day time: 6 am to 10 pm and Night: 10 pm to 6 am

Source: Central Pollution Control Board

But, how can an ordinary citizen measure decibels (dB)? How do we know when to complain?

“It is simple. Any sound that is unpleasant and continues for prolonged time comes under noise. Every citizen has the right to complain against noise pollution, as it is a public nuisance,” said Environmental Engineer from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), PS Livingstone. 

Complaint mechanism and follow up

  • The first thing to do at the police station is to check if the concerned party has obtained permission for the event (temple festivals, street plays etc). 
  • Continuous bursting of crackers, loud sound from the generator sets etc — all of it comes under the Public Nuisance Act. Ensure that an FIR or a CSR is filed with Section 268 in the Indian Penal Code. According to the section, causing common injury, danger or annoyance to the public comes under public nuisance. 
  • The police should visit the spot immediately and ensure that the nuisance stops. Confiscating the equipment (such as loudspeakers) and cancelling permission to continue the event and levying fine (that extends to Rs 200) are few actions they take, based on the magnitude of the violation.

Laasya Shekhar
About Laasya Shekhar 165 Articles
Laasya Shekhar is Senior Reporter at Citizen Matters Chennai. She tweets at @plaasya.

4 Comments

  1. You are right. My one year old grandson was frighted by continuous cracker sound, even now he trembles when he hears a small noise, otherwise a brave child. My pet could not be consoled last Deepavalli, we dread the repeat this year. BUT THE COMPLAINT POINTS YOU MENTION ARE NOT WORTH TRYING. NO USE IN INDIA TO COMPLAIN.

  2. 1 day or a max of 3 days in a year, almost all of us can easily tolerate the so-called noise-pollution due to firecrackers. I can understand if someone has serious health issues like Heart Condition or like that. Otherwise, I simply can’t understand why people should make so much ado about this Diwali Festival that too in the recent years.

  3. I made the mistake of going over to my relative’s apartment for Divali. The noise was unbearable. I couldn’t sleep a wink in 2 nights in a row. If tgis is my plight, I can only imagine what the sick and elderly went through. Even the so called sensitised school kids were seen playing with fire crackers well upto midnight. The revelers seemed to have no concern for the other residents or the neighborhood. The whole place was littered up with cracker refuse and resembled a war zone. Does education really make a difference to our behavior? Extremely disappointed with the selfishness and self centeredness.

  4. I had to use earplug and cotton in my ear for the whole day to save me from this chaos.But, cats in my house were traumatized.

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