White Paper On Noise Pollution Control Killing Music

Articles May - June 2019

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Complete Audio Solutions from Honeywell

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NOISE CONTROL KILLING MUSIC?


In September last year the Bombay High Court refused to grant relief to PALA seeking use of “DJ music” and other audio systems during Ganapati immersions and Navratri. HC announced a complete ban on the use of DJ or sound systems during Ganpati Visarjan (immersion) because of increasing noise pollution.
The article explores whether a ban on the use of sound systems for live events - be it cultural festivals or music concerts is a practical solution.

In less than four months as devotees across Maharashtra and other states across India prepare to welcome Lord Ganesh, PALA (Pro Audio & Lighting Association) continues to fight and defend its members, seeking guidelines and regulations, within the ambit of which the use of sound systems shall be permissible.

The Ganesh festival is a century-old tradition. There are stories of Chhatrapati Shivaji initiating the festival to nurture a spirit of goodwill and uphold Hindu traditions and culture. The great Bal Gangadhar Tilak redefined the Ganesh Utsav in the late 19th century and re-energized the festival amid British autocracy. Over time, the streets of Pune and Mumbai witnessed 10-day celebrations which till date serves to bring together people of all castes, communities and religion who are unified in welcoming Lord Ganesha.

Tilak brought the Ganesh Festival from homes to streets of Pune and Mumbai, at a time when public social and political gatherings were banned by the British. So today, are we back to the old days? Have we become so “English” that we ignore the cultural sentiments of the masses comprising of Indian citizens across castes, religion and social strata? Should we be so educated and so English as to decide that our culture should be celebrated sans music?

The laws mandate that ambient noise levels must be maintained at public places even during festivals and as in every civilized nation, they definitely MUST be maintained, however with proper guidelines, rules and regulations, revised laws and correct implementation.

All it takes in India is one phone call complaining about noise nuisance to stop a licensed live event with all permissions in place. If we have become so western in our outlook, it would serve us well to replicate the west completely.

The Seattle government website clearly states pointers on what can be done legally to address noise issues. Some key takeaways from this website is that officers must first issue a warning and secondly the complainant must be willing to allow officers to verify how the noise sounds from their premises. The website also clearly states that the complainant must be reasonable – “When living in a dense and diverse city zoned residential and commercial, a certain level of tolerance for noise should be expected. Some types of noises are permitted. We cannot intervene unless the noise is breaking an ordinance” states the website.

Similarly, in India too, no phone call should be allowed to call off an authorized licensed show unless the show or event breaks a law.

Unfortunately, in the present scenario the implementation of rules appear to be skewed, wherein cultural festivals like Ganesh Visarjan and Navratri or live musical events are singled out, while conical speakers are used on a regular basis by houses of worship and political rallies. These speakers too generate noise levels equivalent to that of sound systems used during cultural fetivals, but authorities don’t seem to be taking any concrete steps to curb noise pollution here.

Also to be noted is that the conical loudspeakers are intended to throw sound to larger/longer distances, while some other sound systems like line array speakers for instance, used in musical live shows have “dispersion control” and can be arrayed to the audience in the venue (who have come there by their own will), reducing sound dispersed outside the venue.

Some key points to be considered:

  • Outdated Laws: Maximum noise levels permissible under the rules for various areas range between 50 and 75 decibels during the day and between 40 and 70 decibels at night under the Noise Pollution Rules-2000. When the law was formulated in 1986 and implemented in 2000, the ambient noise on the street during that period was taken into consideration. Today, ambient noise levels have increased phenomenally due to various factors, which include amongst many others, construction and traffic on the street. Let alone Metros like Mumbai and Delhi, even smaller towns and cities probably have an ambient noise level on the streets beyond 75db, which means even a minute amplification of 5 db of the loudspeaker volume would be calculated at 80dB, which despite being reasonable, will tantamount to the law being breached as soon as the systems are put on.
  • Enforcement: Do officials entrusted with the duty of measuring sound levels possess the expertise to perform this duty in a correct manner as per guidelines issued by law? For instance, as per the law, for live events like musical concerts, the noise has to be measured outside the venue. However, the grievance of many event organisers is that the rules are not being implemented in accordance with the law and many a times officials enter the venue and measure the sound from the speaker or the console area. This is akin to putting your hand in the fire and saying it’s too hot.
  • Noise Monitoring Tools: Moreover do they possess the required devices to check noise levels/pollution. Ideally, a Sound Meter which measures Leq should be utilized.
  • Classification of Sound Equipment: The law has equated loudspeakers, public address system and the music instruments by classifying them in the same category. There is no clear differentiation to distinguish sound systems (referred to as DJ systems no matter what kind of a system it really is) from the other musical instruments while issuing such bans. All sound systems are not the same. Sound systems used in large concerts are a different from sound systems used in Ganpati pandals for example.

Putting a blanket ban on the use of sound systems for only specific events isn’t going to help anybody. What will help is practical and concrete resolutions put in place wherein the audio industry is streamlined and audio industry licensing becomes mandatory. All rental companies need to be licensed and compulsorily registered with the municipal corporation and a system needs to be put in place where there is some sort of monitoring where the license is revoked after repeated violations of the law (which too needs to be revised).

Ganesh Visarjan is a tradition that is by, of and for the people. When the masses chant Ganpati bappa morya during immersions, the decibel levels are probably far louder than the sound systems. It is an occasion that people across caste and religion look forward too. Let’s all celebrate that spirit, with concrete and practical laws in place, supported by proper implementation instead of putting a blanket ban.

The session on “Noise Pollution Control Killing Music” at the PALM Summit – Conference & Seminar on 30th May will discuss and debate knowledgeably about noise and decibel levels at live sound events, the balance between organized cultural shows/live sound events and noise on the streets and wherein lies the golden medium.

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