Kolkata: Honking, according to experts, is the single biggest contributor to noise pollution in Kolkata. The city, along with Asansol, now stands sixth — and second in India after Moradabad — among the noisiest south Asian cities, says the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)’s report ‘Frontiers 2022: Noise, Blazes and Mismatches’.
According to the report, Kolkata’s average is 65-89 decibel, way above the maximum threshold of 75 decibels in the day (for commercial areas) and 40 decibels at night (residential areas).
“All forms of musical horns, TT horns and airhorns are banned. Yet, several motorists continue using them. Similarly, there are mandates under the law that silent generator sets are to be used. But for all this, mass awareness is the need of the hour,” said a senior scientist working for a Bengal government body. The scientist added: “It is important that taking action — say against airhorns — should not lie with transport inspectors alone.” Environmentalists also blame the inaction by authorities to repeated complaints of noise pollution.
Green crusader Subhas Datta said: “Kolkata is the noisiest city of India. I personally measured noise level in hospitals way back in the 80s and found gross violations. The same tradition is continuing. Noise is a silent killer as it affects the nervous system. It must be stopped and strict monitoring of ambient noise level must be enforced.”
Kolkata Police officers said they will seek more powers under Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act to prosecute people for noise pollution. This penal measures allow for fines up to Rs 1 lakh. As per statutes, only the Pollution Control Board can prosecute under this section. At present, police act under the Motor Vehicles Act that allows them to slap penalties of Rs 500-Rs 1000.
Kolkata Traffic Police, which launched anti-honking drives last year, has challaned 1,264 motorists in the last 12 days, an average of 222 each day. The Sealdah traffic guard, which covers hospitals like NRS and the BR Singh Hospital, a portion of Medical College and the R Ahmed Dental College, has reported the highest number of violations.
“Scientific and proper diversion of traffic should be implemented to control noise pollution. Involvement of NGOs could help us reduce noise pollution,” said expert Indrajit Roy Chowdhury in one of his research articles.