By Jaideep Sarin
CHANDIGARH: Noisy wedding celebrations, high-pitched religious fervour and other ear-splitting nocturnal festivities have become a nightmare for peace-loving citizens of Punjab. Finally, the state's lawmakers and authorities seem to be waking up to the pervasive civic nuisance.
A recent study by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) to measure the noise level due to loudspeakers used in religious places in villages across the state has confirmed that the noise pollution was at more than the permissible limits.
The study, conducted for the first time in the agrarian state, found that the decibel level in Punjab's rural areas was higher during night time (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
"Noise monitoring was carried out at boundary walls at 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres distance from religious places. It was found that the noise level at the boundary wall was 60-88dB (decibel) at 50 metres, 53-87dB at 100 metres and 50-72dB at 200 metres, which was well above the permissible limit of 45dB," PPCB Chairman Kahan Singh Pannu said.
The study pointed out that higher values of noise pollution in villages could have an adverse effect on human health. This could lead to fatigue of hearing or auditory organs, deafness, annoyance, hypertension, change of the rate of heart beat, vertigo effects and cardiovascular effects.
Pannu said the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, had recently issued a directive asking all gurdwaras to keep the volume of speakers within permissible limits.
In most villages in Punjab, there is at least one gurdwara (Sikh shrine or temple). Some villages have two or even more.
The PPCB Chairman has appealed to the management committees of gurdwaras, temples and mosques to keep the noise pollution under control.
Punjab's lawmakers too are now all ears over the growing noise menace.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told the state assembly last month that the government will soon convene an all-party meeting to deliberate on ways to check the menace.
Expressing concern over the implications of noise pollution, Amarinder Singh admitted that norms on noise levels were being blatantly flouted, especially in the case of DJs (disc jockeys) at social functions, resulting in inconvenience and disturbance to people, particularly students preparing for examinations.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator Aman Arora, who raised the noise pollution issue in the assembly last month, said the problem needed immediate attention and warranted serious discussion.
Amarinder Singh told the House: "My government will get inputs from the members of various political parties for evolving a consensus on finding a permanent solution to the problem."
Though provisions under the Noise Pollution Regulation and Control Rules, 2000, issued by the Government of India, and the Punjab Instruments Control of Noises Act, 1956, clearly provide directions on permissible limits and timings for use of loudspeakers, these are flouted with impunity and authorities, especially the police, in the districts, are not implementing the rules strictly.
The Supreme Court has also imposed a ban on playing of loud music and use of loudspeakers from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
"We get guests from abroad and other places across the country. At night, there is too much noise from nearby marriage palaces. No one follows the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. ban directive. Loud music is played till 2 a.m.
"The loudspeakers from nearby religious places wake up people around 4 a.m. There is no check on anyone," a leading entrepreneur who runs a farmstay in rural Punjab told IANS.
The problem is more acute in rural areas compared to cities and towns as there is better regulation in the latter.
Till the time local authorities in the districts enforce the ban on loudspeakers effectively during night hours, people in Punjab's hinterland will continue to suffer noisy nights.