URBANISATION AND NOISE POLLUTION
General Studies 1
- Effects of globalization on Indian society, Social empowerment
- Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
General Studies 2
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
- Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
Noise pollution concerns
Urbanisation is a natural phenomenon and it has spillover effects on generations. The effects are widespread to over health, economy and society at large. Increasing urbanization and consequent increase in vehicles and industries has lead a significant rise in noise pollution and hence deep health concerns.
Study finds that noise pollution is robbing nearly two decades of healthy hearing from the residents of Delhi and Mumbai
- Air pollution is impairing the lungs of Indians, particularly in north Indian cities like Delhi that have to cope with unfavorable meteorology is a known reality.
- However, a study across 50 cities in the world finds that noise pollution — from vehicles, power drills, wedding bands, loudspeakers, headphone-use, television and humanity in general — is robbing nearly two decades of healthy hearing from the denizens of Delhi and Mumbai.
Using data gathered from over 2,00,000 participants of their hearing test, the study by Mimi, a German company that works on ways to test hearing and improve music perception, found
- That 64% of the hearing loss measured in people of a city could be explained by the region’s noise pollution levels.
The data was gathered by those who used Mimi’s hearing test app, which allows participants to enter their age and gender, and measure their hearing.
- This is broadly done by playing tones at various frequencies that cover the range of human auditory perception from 20-20,000 Hz.
- The theory goes that age irreversibly destroys the tiny hair in your inner ear, making it harder to hear high-pitched tones.
- The older you are, the less the range of frequencies perceived.
International standards and issues
There is an international standard on the ideal hearing abilities across age groups and the Mimi researchers determined how far, on average, people’s hearing abilities deviated from what’s ideal for their age.
- This number, called the ‘Hearing Loss’ (HL), varied from 10 to 20 years and the researchers averaged this based on the number of respondents per city.
- Residents of Vienna were found to have the smallest average HL of 12.59 years, meaning that a hypothetical 30-year-old had the hearing of a 42-year-old.
- Delhi performed the worst with an HL of 19.34, meaning that a 30-year-old Delhiite had the auditory level of a 49-year-old; Mumbai’s is 18.58.
- Other cities with the highest average HL but trailing Delhi were Istanbul, Cairo and Guangzhou, in that order. Zurich, Switzerland has the least incidence of noise pollution and Guangzhou, China the highest, according to the report.
“While eye and sight checks are routine for most, ear and hearing exams are not,” Dr. Manfred Gross from Charité University Hospital, Berlin, said in a statement, “This is an issue as the earlier hearing loss is detected, the better the chances are for preventing further damage.”
Increasing noise levels and issues:
So far, the study is yet to be published in a scientific journal or peer-reviewed but prior research has established the link between hearing loss and noise levels.
- It is estimated, according to a 2015 report commissioned by the European Commission on the impact of noise on health, that 1.3 billion people worldwide suffer from hearing impairment due to noise exposure and that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 10% of the global population is currently exposed to noise levels that could lead to hearing impairment.
- The same body recommends that unprotected exposure to sound levels greater than 100 dB (a firecracker generates about 125 dB) should be limited in duration (four hours) and frequency (four times a year).
- Additionally, it should never exceed 140 dB in adults and 120 dB in children. India’s Central Pollution Control Board conducts studies of ambient noise in commercial, residential and industrial townships — especially around Diwali — and has found that noise levels in Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow routinely break the national limit of 75 dB.
Urbanisation and consequent growth should be planned. The lack of planning and the resultant disintegration is visible in India and across the world. Noise pollution and the damage caused is a silent but considerable irreversible threat.
Connecting the dots:
- Critically discuss the incidence of noise pollution and its effects on urban areas especially in light of urban sprawl witnessed in India and the world.
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Saving the Western Ghats
In news: in last three years, the Environment Ministry has hesitated for second time to bring into force a law that will make about 56,825 sqkm of the ecologically-rich Western Ghats out of bounds for industrial development.
- In March 2014, the government had revived a draft that specified how much land in various coastal States encompassing the Western Ghats would be earmarked as practically-inviolate.
- But as it was not made a law, because of opposition by states, the draft lapsed in September 2015.
- The same draft was reintroduced in 2015 which is expired once again on March 4 2017.
- Now, a new draft notification had been issued in February- open to public comments for 60 days which allows the Centre to create an Ecological Sensitive Area (ESA) in the Western Ghats (WG), spanning along west coast of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- The regions declared as the ESA will not be allowed to host mining and quarrying projects and building thermal power plants.
- The Ministry of Environment and Forest is empowered under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to declare any region as deserving of special protection. This provision should be taken up seriously now. Such protection is essential to rule out incompatible activities such as mining, constructing large dams, and setting up polluting industries.
The importance of Western Ghats
- The idea is that whatever is left of these fragile mountainous forests should be protected from unsustainable exploitation in the interests of present and future generations.
- It also presents a sustainable ways of living to the communities that inhabit these landscapes.
- To make the issue a typical development-vs-conservation debate is unscientific given the significant role Western Ghats play in development of the nation.
- It is an accepted fact that Western Ghats play an important and irreplaceable role in mediating the monsoon over the country.
- Endemism is also at the heart of protecting Western Ghats. According to reliable estimates, they have more than 1,500 endemic species of flowering plants, and at least 500 such species of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
- The forests harbour a rich biodiversity that is yet to be discovered, researched and understood. This is evident from the fact that new species continue to emerge each year in an area that has endemic plants and animals.
- The threat still persists when a scientist Norman Myers had written nearly two decades ago that only 8% of primary vegetation out of the original 182,500 sq km remains in the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka taken together.
Need of Conservation- recommendations and suggestions
Gadgil Committee — In 2011, a committee headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil recommended that all of the Western Ghats be declared as the ESA — with only limited development allowed in graded zones.
Kasturirangan Committee — Another committee headed by former ISRO, it recommended only about 60,000 sq km — or about 37% of the WG be declared ESA.
Both expert groups have encountered resistance from State governments and industries, although they mutually differ in their recommendations. Thus, States have forced the Centre to consistently delay imposing the ESA restrictions.
What to do?
- It needs to be known how much of Western Ghats can be demarcated as ecologically sensitive, going beyond the system of national parks and sanctuaries that already exist.
- Also, if there are other areas free to be exploited for industrial activity, including mining and deforestation, with no environmental consequences.
- Goa’s loss of ecology has been frequently cited as an example of destruction due to rampant, illegal mining.
- The complicated task is that of assessment of ecosystem services delivered by the forests, lakes, rivers and their biodiversity to communities.
- As Gadgil report underscores that the unique value of some locations, such as those with fish or medicinal plant diversity peculiar to a small area, should not get lost in the assessment process.
- Also, what comes out strikingly is that in a populous country like India, endemism has survived with community support.
- Thus, MoEF should heed the advice of the expert group and unhesitatingly reject environmental clearance for two controversial dam projects — Athirapilly in Kerala and Gundia in Karnataka — which come under the most sensitive ecological zone category.
- In this context, Kerala High Court’s direction to the State Electricity Board to repair and restore all existing dams to maximise power output, is relevant as this will eliminate the need for a destructive new structure at Athirapilly.
- The Western Ghats Ecological Authority, also called as Gadgil Committee, has proposed sound guidelines to conserve and protect the endemic Western Ghats. The need is to translate the recommendations into actions through a statutory apex body.
Instead of another notification that is floated half-heartedly by the central government as there is weak effort to forge a consensus amongst stakeholders, there is a need of a framework under which scientific evidence and public concerns are debated democratically and the baseline for ESAs arrived at.
A national consultative process is required which entails wider consultations with public at all level and bring out several other options such as community-led ecological tourism and agro-ecological farming, to spare the sensitive areas.
Connecting the dots:
- The Western Ghats can be termed as one of India’s prized assets. Yet, not much is done to protect them from destruction. Highlight the problems faced in conservation of Western Ghats and possible solutions for them.
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