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.
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.
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.