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Mumbai, Sep 20: A study of traffic around residential colonies in the suburbs has revealed a new culprit for noise pollution in Mumbai. No, it is not loudspeakers, but the screeching of one lakh odd autorickshaws, which were found to be the worst noise pollutants.

City-based NGO Awaaz Foundation conducted noise tests on autorickshaws plying at 75 residential colonies in Ghatkopar, Thane, Bandra and Bandra-Kurla Complex.

The results showed high levels of equivalent continuous A-weighted sound pressure level (LAeq), which is a more accurate form of measuring decibel (dB) levels. The LAeq in most of these locations varied from 70-90 dB, while the permissible dB levels in residential areas are 55 dB during the day and 45 dB at night.

The study also found autorickshaws honking with LAeq levels ranging between 73-83 dB around hospitals, which fall under the no-noise zone.

“This is a concern when the permissible levels are 50 dB during the day and 40 dB at night,” explained Sumaira Abdulali, founder of Awaaz Foundation.

The tests used state-of-the-art machines, which directly transfer data to the computer to minimise errors. The NGO found that many autorickshaws have a noisy start with the drivers revving the engine to achieve fuel efficiency.

“Suburban residents have been living with high levels of noise by autorickshaws for years. Many people complain of sleeplessness due to the noise.

Most autorickshaws do not have a silencer and are badly maintained. Despite this, licences for new autorickshaws continue to be issued,” added Abdulali.

Exposure to noise is a serious problem in urban areas. “Exposure to loud noise over a prolonged period of time can result in sensory neural hearing loss.

That is why people in places where the noise level is very high are given sound muffling equipment,” said Dr Vimal Kasbekar, ENT surgeon, Bombay Hospital.

Research indicates that continuous exposure to noise levels over 80-100 dB can have serious repercussions. It results in damage to the acoustic nerve. Noise can also damage hair cells (sensory epithelium) in the inner ear.

Frustrated at the lack of response from state transport and traffic authorities, Abdulali believes that strict PUC tests and making drivers aware of the noise pollution rules is the need of the hour. Shyamsunder Shinde, the state transport commissioner, was unavailable for comment.


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