Combating noise pollution
Man is a social animal; he needs comfort in every sense. People are not able to enjoy their lives completely because of the depletion in the environment and this happens because of the hostility between man and environment. Due to the advancement of science and technology, the problem of noise in recent years has emerged as one of the important pollutants of environment.
Noise pollution is a type of energy pollution in which distracting and irritating sounds are clearly audible and which may result in disturbing any natural process or causes human harm. In other words any unwanted sound may result in noise pollution. These unwanted sounds may adversely affect wild life and human existence. Noise by definition is unwanted sound. What is pleasant to some ears may be extremely unpleasant to others depending upon a number of psychological factors. The sweetest music, if it disturbs a person, who is trying to concentrate or to sleep, is noise for him, just as pneumatic riveting hammer is noise to everyone. In other words any sound may be noise if circumstances cause it to be disturbing.
Noise pollution is a highly sensitive social issue. It has its effect on all living things. The problem of noise pollution carries its effect on human beings, animals and birds equally. Studies about the noise pollution reveals that hearing loss, insomnia, blood pressure, cardiovascular, digestive problems, hypertension, headache, annoyance and irritation are common ailments caused by noise amongst fully grown human beings, while dizziness and neurophysiologic reactions are found in children and on the other hand, the problem of increasing heart rates, blood pressure in animals and disturbance in breeding system have been noticed as important ailments.
The studies on noise pollution also prove that normal tolerance of noise in human beings lies between 40-50dB and exposure to noise of more than 90dB may result in permanent hearing loss. Taking these harmful ill effects of noise pollution into consideration, the Noise pollution (regulation and control) rules, 2000 was passed to keep a control on the noise levels.
Noise pollution (regulation and control) rules, 2000 was enacted to take care of the depletion in the environment due to excessive noise. These are rules regarding the noise levels that should be maintained in certain areas. The noise pollution rules came up with a silence zone i.e. an area comprising not less than 100 meters around hospitals, educational institutions, court, religious places or any other area which is declared as such by the competent authority. According to the noise pollution rules authorities could take action and initiate prosecution against people who do not follow the rules. After the commencement of these rules also one can see many cases where people just honk without any reason creating chaos on the road and other places which comes under the purview of silence zone. These people while honking and using loudspeakers does not realize the difficulties that they cause to others and to themselves. One can even lose hearing; stress levels can go high and even mental instability. Honking unnecessarily while driving has become a trend these days and one can hear it very well at the traffic signals.
The problem of noise in recent years has become a serious threat to personal liberties, enjoyment of which is very essential for the quality of life in any civilized society. Noise, besides disturbing the normal working of the people in day time, may also disturb their sleep during night. Therefore noise has become a growing menace for the life and liberties of the people guaranteed under the constitution. In Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India, the Supreme Court pointed out that the expression ‘personal liberty’ does not mean only liberty of the persons but also liberty or the rights attached to the person. Further in Francis Coralie V. Union territory of Delhi, Justice Bhagwati while stressing the quality of life and its enjoyment within the purview of Article 21 has rightly said:
“The right to life enshrined in article 21 cannot be restricted to mere animal existence. It means something much more than just physical survival. The right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it”.
The questionability as to how far the violation of liberties essential for life caused by environmental pollution lies within the scope of article 21 has been discussed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in T.Damodar Rao V. S.O Municipal Corporation . The court observed that the enjoyment of life and its attainment and fulfillment guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution embraces the protection and preservation of natures gifts without which life cannot be enjoyed and in that case slow poisoning by the polluted atmosphere caused by environmental pollution was regarded as violation of article 21 of the constitution. If the environment is polluted no one can enjoy life fully because the chances of being affected by various diseases are higher and it can also deprive the person of proper sleep, food, peaceful living etc.
Rights to sleep, food, recreation, peaceful living and conversation etc are such basic liberties without which the enjoyment of life with all human dignity is not possible. If these are disturbed by noise, their violation would certainly lie within article 21 of the constitution especially in those cases where the license for the use of such sources of noise has been granted directly by the state administration. This happens often during state festivals and elections. In such circumstances, the state government should take up the responsibility if it fails to control the manner of use of such sources of noise, which ultimately results into the violation of personal freedoms besides causing a problem of environmental pollution through noise. The authorities which include police and other officials should consider the violation of these rules as those against right to life and should strictly impose fine on people who violate the rules and this one step by the state and central government would curb the problem of noise pollution in the country
No doubt, these noise standards put forth through the Noise pollution (regulation and rules) 2000 and various judgments of the Supreme Court has been helpful in controlling the problem of noise to a great extent, however to control the rapid growth of noise in the country and to keep the environment noise free for the people the need for effective implementation of the laws and awareness amongst the masses are necessary. The environmental protection rules should be followed by all, honking and usage of loud speakers should be banned. Many countries have banned honking and it has proved to be very effective way of preventing noise pollution and most importantly people must know how to live without disturbing others and to protect the environment we live in i.e. there must be ‘Invidual social responsibility’ and only this kind of responsibility can protect our environment from depletion and would allow us to work for the benefit of the environment which plays an important role in our life. Unless and until the masses take up the social responsibility of protecting the environment from all kind of depletion, no laws will be fruitful.
Roshni Manuel Law student ILS law college Pune university (INDIA)
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