Wednesday, June 29, 2016

V Ayyappan| TNN | Jun 28, 2016, 

The railways is yet to take noise pollution seriously; they do not have any restriction on horns in place now.... Read More

With no defined airport zone, and sound barriers on tracks too expensive to install, there is no escaping high decibels

The ministry of civil aviation's move to boost regional connectivity by allowing airlines to import aircraft as old as 18 years may not be good news for people living near airports. While modern planes are quieter, older aircraft are not.

People living near airports may have to put up with an increase in sound levels in the coming months and there is not going to be an improvement for those near railway stations either as the railways does not have any sound barriers in place or restrictions on honking for locomotives.

"Noise pollution awareness is still at a nascent stage at airports. Following complaints, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation set up some norms for the Delhi airport. The circular issued a few years ago is supposed to be followed by other airports also," says a senior Airports Authority of India official. "However, implementation is difficult if an airport is surrounded by residential buildings, like in Chennai." There were a few complaints years ago when the Madras Flying Club was operational. "People wanted us to stop flying at night. Now, we do not have any complaints," says an airport official. This is primarily due to aircraft manufacturers who have made the new planes quieter.

The noise generated by a modern B747-8 or A350-900 aircraft touches 85 decibels (dB) when engines are at full throttle during take-off. This is far lower than the ambient noise in some of the busiest neighbourhoods in the city. This is one of the reasons why many spot a plane but don't hear its noise.

According to DGCA norms, permissible noise levels near airports are 105dB for civil aircraft during the day and 95dB at night. As norms defining the airport zone are not followed the adjacent areas have become dense. Residents of Manapakkam, which is closer to the second runway, say they are not bothered by the noise from planes. "Probably due to the wind pattern, we cannot perceive much noise from the airport. But I can hear the rumble of the suburban train early in the morning though it is far away," says V Nagaraj, a resident. But with domestic airlines looking to expand operations and air traffic going up, Nagaraj may have to bear with the roar of the aircraft as well.

Meanwhile, there is no relief in sight for those near railway stations. Except in metro rail, there is no move to install sound barriers or cut down on the noise generated by locomotives. Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) has defined some steps for metro rail and suburban trains. Metro rail has walls made of glass panels to minimise noise from trains. But railways is yet to implement such practices.

Locomotives and the use of horns contribute the most to noise pollution. Ballast over which tracks are laid cuts down the noise. However, the railways is yet to take noise pollution seriously though there have been complaints from residents near stations. "There is no restriction on the use of horns. We are forced to use it near crowded areas because people indiscriminately cross the tracks," says a loco pilot. A railways official says RDSO guidelines for metro rail can be extended to trains as well. "Once perfected, it can be used for mainline trains also," he says.

Make your voice heard above the noise: Reader response on email

Rajee J: It is heartening to note that TOI has taken up this very important issue of noise pollution. I live in a gated community on Velachery Main Road, parallel to the 100ft ByPass Road. Our road is narrower and prone to traffic congestion and, consequently, blaring horns. Buses race on this stretch honking all the way. Even vehicles inside the compound, taxis and cars, make a cacophony during any time of the day or night with their reverse horns. Added to this there is a printing press next door and though they shut their doors on request, the noise that emanates from there is nerve-racking. It will be of great service to us if TOI helps us in asking the authorities concerned to make the stretch from Phoenix mall to Vijay Nagar Bus terminus a one-way road. The owners of the press should also take some steps to lessen the noise levels especially at night.

R Venkateswaran: The worst noise pollution in Chennai is bursting of loud crackers during funeral processions, temple festivals and election victory rallies. The loud sounds severely affects people. Bursting crackers during non-Diwali season requires police permission but I doubt how many take it. I request the TNPCB and the government to be tough on cracker bursting violations. If bursting of crackers is their custom or ritual let them do it in empty grounds outside the city limits. Many countries like USA and Singapore permit bursting of crackers in open grounds away from residential areas.

Ratnakumar Raghunatha Iyer: The noise from temples and drums at funeral processions and bursting crackers are of immense danger, especially to those near cremation grounds. These aspects have to be brought to the attention of authorities and early action taken to curb the drums, which affects cardiac patients. The crackers set off on roads are a menace to cars, and passers by too. The Kollam temple tragedy should be an eye-opener for Tamil Nadu as well.

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