Despite the High Court ordering the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to check noise and air pollution in the City and strictly maintain ‘No Honking Zones’ around schools, hospitals, government offices, courts, etc, officials and experts say such spaces simply do not exist because most of the institutions are located in congested areas.
Rules laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Forests state that there should be absolutely no noise within the 100-metre radius of schools and hospitals, in the areas marked as ‘No Honking Zones’ or ‘Silent Zones’.
But officials and experts point out that ‘No Honking Zones’ simply do not exist in the City because most of the institutions are located in congested areas.
‘No Honking Zones’ refer to areas around educational institutions, hospitals, government offices and courts. But this is only on paper because most of them are located in prime areas, including main roads, highways and market spaces.
For instance, St Joseph’s schools and colleges, Christ University, Bishop Cotton schools and colleges, Mallya Hospital, KC General Hospital, Victoria Hospital, Bowring Hospital, Vanivilas Hospital, Fortis Hospitals, High Court, City Civil Court, Family Court, etc, are all located in prime locations.
In fact, noise levels in ‘Silent Zones’ are not at all being measured in the City. According to experts, the KSPCB, which is authorised to penalise the violators, has not measured the noise levels either.
According to audiologist Dr Radhika Poovaiah, noise levels in ‘Silent Zones’ are above 70-80 decibels. Neither the KSPCB nor any other government agency is strictly monitoring them.
Accepting the fact that ‘No Honking Zones’ do not exist in Bangalore and noise levels are not being specifically measured, KSPCB chairman Vaman Acharya told Deccan Herald: “Considering all these aspects, we have issued orders to government agencies and urban local bodies to ensure that whenever they plan areas and give construction permissions, they should follow the zoning criteria.
Ideally zones are well-defined in every city: residential, silent, commercial, industrial and mixed. But in Bangalore, everything is mixed up. There is a lot of confusion, for example, prime city markets are located near Victoria and Bowring hospitals. Thus, it is not possible for us to erect a board stating that 100 metres around the hospital is ‘No Honking Zone’. But we are in the process of measuring noise levels in all ‘No Honking Zones’ and are preparing a detailed report.”
Traffic expert M N Srihari said that it was difficult for the government to undo past mistakes but it had to begin somewhere.
Heavy traffic and construction activities can be sighted in such zones. There is a need for strict measurement of noise levels and imposition of penalty on those who violate rules. Correction, measurement and implementation should start now.