In India, no law deals exclusively with the problem of noise. However, our developed counterparts have worked on regulatory aspects of noise pollution enacting laws to act on noise pollution issues. For example, England passed a law in 1960 (Noise Abatement Act of 1960). This law prohibits the use of loudspeakers by any individual or body between 9 pm – 8 am. However, the Noise Pollution and Abatement Act of 1970 of the United States of America allows for the use of loudspeakers. But according to this law, it is only permitted for certain authorities such as the police and fire brigade.
The legislature in India has passed laws that deal with the general problems of public nuisance, public discomfort, public health, and environmental damage. All of these include noise pollution. However, there is a need to enact a separate law that deals solely with noise pollution. Noise pollution can cause severe damage to public health and the environment. The people and the government must recognize this threat as serious and pass laws that protect humans and the environment from its ill effects.
Planning Against Noise
You might have noticed that some areas in your city are quieter than others while some are really noisy. If your city was established a long time ago, this difference in noise exists because authorities poorly planned the city structure. Also, since the city was planned a long time ago, it does not address the current mobility needs of its citizens.
Studies have shown that urban planning plays a significant role in the amount and propagation of noise pollution in a city. Features such as the number of lanes in a road, parking areas, parks, recreational areas, designation of commercial and residential areas, the location of utilities, etc., that are characteristic of urban centers are directly linked with noise levels generated.
Correct planning and modification of these elements can significantly reduce noise pollution. Also, ongoing metropolitan/city planning projects must consider noise levels typical of elements of an area. For example, while constructing a new highway, the planning process must consider the noise levels that its construction and use could generate. City planning authorities must implement noise reduction techniques and methods during the planning process itself. In the example of the highway, planners must determine the number of lanes the highway should have considering usual traffic, which ensures a smooth flow of traffic and a reduction in noise from the honking of horns.
There are several Indian criminal laws concerning noise pollution that the government has passed. These laws make it convenient for people affected by noise to approach courts for the protection of their right to a peaceful living environment. Some of these laws are:
1. Noise Pollution Control (Indian Penal Code)
Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code considers noise a ‘public nuisance.’ This law punishes elements that cause a public nuisance through noise pollution.
2. Noise Pollution Control (Code of Criminal Procedure)
This law criminalizes all types of pollution, including noise. Based on a police report, magistrates can regulate, prohibit, or remove any trade or occupation injurious to health and causes physical discomfort.
3. Aircraft Act, 1934
This act suggests that the construction and operation of airports should be away from residential areas. It also ensures the protection of people residing around airports from the noise produced by frequent take-off and aircraft landings.
4. The Police Act, 1861
The Police Act of 1861 makes the playing of loud noise illegal beyond a stipulated time. It also allows police authorities to regulate the extent to which people can play music on the streets during festivals and other ceremonies. This act, however, does not make it regulatory for police authorities to prohibit or regulate noise arising from ceremonies on private property.
OSHA Noise Standards
The full form of OSHA is Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is a regulatory agency of the Department of Labor of the United States. It provides safety standards for all aspects of a workplace. Its noise standards for a workplace are based on a person’s exposure to noise over an 8-hour workday. Its safety standards for noise in workplaces are:
The maximum noise exposure level for a worker over 8 hours is 90 dB.
For every 5 dB increase in the noise level, the time of exposure reduces by half. For example, the noise level limit would be 95 dB for a 4-hour work period.
If the noise exposure of workers crosses the permissible, safe limit, the noise must be controlled through engineering and/or administrative methods.
When noise levels exceed 85 dB in a general workplace and 90 dB at a construction site, employers must implement a Hearing Conservation Program (HCP).
The OSHA Act, Section 5(a)(1) states that “An employer is required to furnish to each of his employees’ employment and a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Noise is a hazard that can cause fatal damage to a person’s health. This law protects employees from the dangers of noise pollution. It also ensures that employers provide safe working conditions for their employees.
Noise Pollution Remedies
The following measures indicate how local authorities and the general public can remediate noise pollution:
Planting bushes and plants around sources of noise pollution.
Appropriate planning of urban areas and cities/towns.
Raising public awareness and making noise pollution an essential part of the school curriculum.
Regular maintenance checks and servicing of equipment, vehicles, etc.
Controlling the transmission path of noise.
Enclosing noisy machines and equipment in isolated chambers.
Using silencers on the exhausts of fans and blowers in machines.
Lining walls, floors, and ceilings with sound absorbers reduce the intensity of noise in the room. This prevents its transmission outside the room.
Strict regulations and rules clearly set the limits for noise levels in an area. It also limits the maximum exposure time of a person. For example, the designation of silence zones around schools and hospitals.
Using all noisy equipment in a designated space so that other areas can be kept quiet.
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