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Sumaira Abdulali

Sumaira Abdulali, convenor, Awaaz Foundation, on her new citizens’ noise-mapping project

Sumaira Abdulali
Sumaira Abdulali

What’s unique about the new noise-mapping project you’ve launched this Ganesh festival?

An app called Noise Watch allows anyone to record noise levels on to a satellite (GIS) map. We’ve a page called Citizens' Noise Map on Facebook, where people can record their observations.

You’ve been tracking noise levels during festivals for 10 years....

Yes, we’ve had volunteers with recording equipment, who track noise levels. 

Is there more awareness of noise pollution?

The police can enforce laws; the government has measures to include noise in urban planning. But loudspeakers have improved in quality!

What about politicians, who use festivals as propaganda platforms?

They’ve realised they can’t flout the rules, so they want to dilute them, and add more of them.

What are accepted levels of noise?

Residential zones: 55 dB from 6 am-10 pm and 45 dB from 10 pm-6 am; Silence zones: 50 dB from 6 am-10 pm and 40 dB from 10 pm-6 am.

How bad are the decibel limit violations?

Decibel levels during processions last year went up to 121 dB. Above 125 dB can cause loss of hearing, while even above 80 dB can cause mental illness, heart disease or even death.

What’s the difference between this and other environmental projects you’re involved in?

Sand mining is a rural issue and not many people know about its impact on biodiversity. It’s easier to create awareness about noise pollution.

Are urban citizens more conscious then?

Most agree that noise rules should be enfo­rced, but some want to remain exceptions to law.

Have you tried to address that challenge?

Yes, direct involvement in data gathering is more useful than what's imposed from outside.

Are anti-noise pollution campaigns growing in India?

Yes, in cities like Benares and Bangalore, apart from Thane, Navi Mumbai and Pune.

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