Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Diwali Dhamaka

On 16th October, after mailing everyone in my address book happiness in the “festival of lights” (I absolutely hate that cliché BTW – someone should come up with a better moniker asap!), I headed home feeling quite empty… it was weird being alone in the company guesthouse on Diwali eve (every other guest had gone home to celebrate with family and friends…) and all I wanted was a good night’s sleep. Sadly that was asking for too much!

At about 4 am next morning, I was shocked out of my sweet slumber by explosions – had I been teleported to a battlefield from dear ol’ Mumbai? I know I am a deep sleeper, but this was ridiculous! Still groggy from sleep depravation, I peeped out the window to see who had invaded India?

And then it hit it, it was just another happy Diwali and people were just having a blast! Their mirth and the noisy articulation of their exuberance did not cease for a whole three days…

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board's (MPCB) report on the noise and air quality measurements taken on Diwali day of 17th October revealed that the decibel levels were way beyond permissible limits and corroborated the measurements taken by Awaaz foundation on the same day. The MPCB report revealed that the decibels hovered in the range of 62-80 db (decibels) where as Awaaz pegged it between 80-120 db. Dharavi topped the list with an average of 82 db, Wadala came a close second with an average of 80.5 db (that’s where my guesthouse is), and Juhu with 77.5 db was the third noisiest place on Diwali day. The noise levels in Pune increased too and showed an interesting trend: Between 10 pm and 11 pm this year, the average noise level shows a decrease from 72.2 dB to 69.8 dB, but between 11 pm to midnight, the average noise level increased from 62.2 dB to 66.47 dB!

On the east coast too, the decibel discipline in Kolkata during Kali Puja and Diwali went up in smoke too with a record amount of banned firecrackers being used in the last two days. Police rounded up nearly 500 persons for violating the noise norms in and around the city. The areas worst affected by the cracker cacophony were Behala, Jadavpur, Kasba, Dhakuria, Tiljala, Topsia, Tangra, Belgachia and Salt Lake. Decibel levels crossed the 100 mark at most places and the average sound level recorded was at least 5 decibels higher than last year. The officials, though, claimed that Kolkata actually celebrated a quieter Diwali with sound levels of firecrackers exceeding 90 decibels banned, compared to 125 decibels in other parts of the country! However, readings taken by SAFE (an NGO) suggest that the sound level touched a high of 103.1 dB at Dunlop bridge in North Kolkata which was 4 dB higher than the highest recorded in 2008. Sodepur Ghola came a close second with 100 dB, While Ajoynagar, off the E M Bypass recorded 97 dB, Cossipore was a shade quieter at 96 dB.

Up north, in the nation’s capital, the average noise level this year was 71-82 decibels as against an average of 67 to 85 last Diwali. The loudest noise level was recorded at Mayur Vihar and measured 82 decibels.

Down south, this Diwali was noisier than last year. According to a release from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the noise level had increased by 3.9 decibels compared to last year. Triplicane had the highest decibel levels at 86.7 and T. Nagar the lowest levels at 73.9. Bangalore too had the decibel levels at an all-time high level - however, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) said that the maximum permissible sound limit of 125 decibel (dB) was not exceeded at any area. (Wah! Wah!)

Every Diwali, it's the same story across the country - Supreme Court deadlines and mandates of keeping the decibel levels down are rampantly flouted resulting in inevitable rise in sound limits beyond “permissible” levels, as illustrated below:

Now have a look at the chart below to fully understand the implication of the Diwali dhamaka decibel numbers:

Norms say that noise levels should not exceed 55 dB in residential areas during the day. The prescribed noise norms during Diwali have pegged the maximum levels of noise as 70 dB in industrial areas, 55 dB in commercial areas, 45 dB in residential and 40 dB in silent zones at night.

The deafening sound of firecrackers seriously affects the aged, unwell and children. (D-uh! We know that already, don’t we?) So, please lend me an ear ? - next Diwali, let’s celebrate and have a blast but ensure a “Silent night, holy night / (where) All is calm, all is bright…”