Mankind’s capacity to create noise has increased dramatically

“Mankind’s capacity to create noise has increased dramatically.” Explain the measures taken by Indian government to control and abate noise pollution.


Noise is derived from the Latin word “nau-sea” which refers to the “sound that is unwanted or sound that is loud, unpleasant or unexpected”.It is one of the curses of the modern era. It is an unwelcome product of our technological civilization. It is turning into a gradually more dangerous and alarming environmental pollutant. The public awareness about air and water pollution is increasing and even there are some progresses, but the third issue of concern, noise pollution has started to draw attention of the civil society very recently. The daily lives of people, especially in urban areas have been attacked by unwanted and annoying sounds. Though traffic noise is usually accepted without any complaint, but nowadays it is going beyond our tolerance limit. The number of motor vehicles is not only increasing annually, but the trend is going upward for different purposes of commercial vehicles like speed, weight, engines and etc. The greatest increase of noise level in urban areas has been introduced due to the use of ultra-modern engines of different types of aircrafts. Noise is always with us but it was not so intense, so annoying and as noticeable as what it is today. Every year the background noise is increasing at a rate of decibel. If this increase goes on in the upcoming years, it could become lethal.


There are different types of sources from where the noise is created. The common sources of noise are vehicular traffic, railway and air traffic, electrical appliances, TV and music system, public address systems, neighbor-hood, inter alia and generating sets. We are also victimized by the noise produced by household equipments used by us. Some of the sources of noise are described below.


Nowadays kitchen has become the noise center of the house. One of the kitchen appliances is electric blender which produces around 98 decibels by a loud power motor[1]. During the simultaneous functions of the weaken fan, the dishwasher and garbage dumping, the noise can be produced up to 100 decibels. The situation is so severe; as a result, Dr. John D. Dougherty of the Harvard School of Public Health has mentioned the kitchen as a main contributor for the increasing deafness of the common people. The indoor and outdoor household roars are not only multiplied by the growing number of appliances, but also by raising the size of their power sources. Formerly the mowers which had one horsepower, currently these mowers and home tractors have around twelve horsepower. Normally vacuum cleaners have two horsepower motors; it is very rare to have vacuum cleaners with one horsepower.[2] Music appliances like a stereo amplifier generally produce 120 watts or 60 watts of audio power per channel.


It has been strongly noticed that workers who work in noisy environment suffer from hearing loss at early ages than other people. Very recently, loss of hearing due to severe noise is considered as an occupational disease in many countries. It is also facilitated with financial compensation. The proportion of such occupational deafness is a huge amount. A large number of people claim for kind of compensation and people who do not claim for compensation, they would also gain such kind of compensation. Dr. Leo L. Beranek, a leading acoustical engineer has observed that a man of 30 years old who works in a noisy working environment with an average noise level of 90 decibels for 10 years, will not be able to hear as better as a man of 60 or 70 years of old who works in a quiet environment. The danger limit is between 80 to 85 decibels for most individuals.


Traffic noise is one of the major annoying elements of the environmental noise pollution. The inter-city train and bus services which are expanded for thousands of mile generate huge traffic noise. Though various traffic vehicles like buses, trucks, motorcycles, passenger cars and sports cars are widely used by the people for their transportation purpose, but the noise produced by these huge traffic systems is seriously harmful for the people. Normally a truck at a speed of 60 miles per hour is twice noisy like a steady stream of automobile traffic. Moreover, city corporation and highway planners in different countries have the power to select quieter road surfaces.


No one will disagree that aircraft noise is one of the most irritating noises that people have to hear among all other sources of noise. There are different types of controversy over noise emitted from jet aircrafts and the location and expansion of airports. According to William F. Mckee, Federal Aviation Administrator, the people annoyed by the noise created from the aircrafts are the main obstacle for the expansion of the airport. The establishment of any new airport or expansion of any existing airport has to face immediate protest by the total community or different social groups. To minimize the noise generates from aircrafts, manufacturers design the aircrafts significantly in a scientific way. Several countries are searching for the solution to minimize or control such kind of disturbing noise.


Like other environmental pollution, noise pollution has adverse effects which are multivariate and interconnected. It is easy to show that people who work or live in extremely noisy environment will suffer from loss of hearing, but it is very tough to show the subjective effects of noise on mental and psychological status of human being. Some of the major effects of noise pollution are discussed below.


The most extreme and visible effect of the noise pollution is the impairment or loss of hearing. The variation in general atmospheric pressure[3] is called airborne sound and ear responses to this pressure proportionately. The noise can damage hearing in different ways. The highly noticeable effect of severe noise on hearing is nerve deafness. It happens when noises destroy the hearing mechanism to an extent where the role of sensory nerve is dejected. Lengthy exposure to too much noise can cause remarkable changes in the cells of hair like sensors which can cause permanent loss of hearing. A sudden burst of noise like bomb blast or gunfire can also cause hearing damage. This type of hearing damage is called acoustic trauma or blast trauma. This type of explosive noise can affect the inner ears which can cause permanent nerve deafness.[4] There are different kinds of factors which are responsible for this type of accident. For example, not only the intensity of noise is the main reason, but other factors like distance from the source, duration of the blast and the frequency are also responsible for this occurrence. It is clear that the longer the duration of the exposure, the damage will be greater. The intensity of the noise declines as the distance from the source decreases. Moreover, the noise with higher frequency like which is generated by a turboprop aircraft are more dangerous and annoying than those which have lower frequencies.


Noise can be simply termed as one or a set of loud, non-harmonious sound or vibration which are unpleasant and disturbing to the ear. Whether a sound turns into noise or whether it is harmful or whether it is wanted or unwanted in many cases is all from the viewpoint. The degree of disturbance is not essentially related to the intensity of sound. It is normally influenced by various subjective factors. Basically it depends on the perspective or motive of acceptance of different type of people. Very high volume music like dead metal or rock music can be treated as beautiful by its appreciative listener, but the same sound can be annoying for another person with a different point of view. A very low sound can be treated as noise depending on the situation. Annoyance is widely an individual opinion and it differs from person to person and in different situations. So when a sound becomes a noise it is an issue of psychology rather than acoustics. This type of irritation also causes behavioral changes. People make more mistakes, their thinking ability goes down and they feel fuzzy. Often they feel irritated and involves into conflicts both at home and outside more than the people who work in a quiet environment.


Sound is harmful for our body and mind whether we can hear it or not. According to the study of French National Centre for Scientific Research, the sound which has frequency below 30 cycles per second is called infrasound and it is not possible to hear by human being is also harmful for us. Infrasound causes various illnesses like dizziness and fatigue. It is also responsible for feelings of malaise and discomfort experienced by airplane passengers, People affected by infrasound face physiological effects which are also caused by low-pitch mechanical vibration. Infrasound can also cause severe irritation, obstruction with intellectual activity and visual disturbances. On the other hand, the sound with frequency scale is called ultrasound. This type of sound is also inaudible to human being, but it can have other extreme effects on human organism.


Man is not the only victim of the noise pollution. Noise pollution has effects on other animals also. According to laboratory experiments, frequency of sound between 150 to 160 decibels is harmful for certain animals. The animals have to experience spasms, burns and paralysis before dying. It is believed that sport fish are hypersensitive to sound. Various researches have been conducted on the commercial oyster beds to identify the impact of noise. Rats lose their fertility due to excessive exposure of noise. They also become homosexual and started to eat their young. When the frequency is around 150 decibels, then they will die due to heart failure.


According to the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 which also consolidates the Water Act of 1974 and the Air Act of 1981, pollution control boards were established in India to prevent, control and abate environmental pollution. The liability system in India is the obstacle for the improvement of the environmental quality due to informational gap with updated scientific knowledge and poor monitoring compliance. For the mentioned reasons, Indian government established Pollution Control Boards (PCBs) at both central and state levels. Unfortunately environmental degradation continues even after three decades of establishment of the regulatory system. The theory of regulation versus liability discloses that both the systems have advantages and disadvantages to take preventive measures to minimize the risk of harm.


The Indian constitution permits for power sharing between the central and state government. After the UN conference on Environment and Human Development at Stockholm in1972, the government of India amended the constitution. The government adopted Article 48A, Article 51A (g) and Article 253. Then the Indian Parliament passed the Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981 (Air Act), and the Environmental Protection Act of 1986 on the basis of these articles. An outline of Indian environmental regulations is given below.

The Water Act of 1974 which was amended in 1988 was the first law in India whose purpose was to confirm that without adequate treatment domestic and industrial pollutants cannot be dumped into the river.

The Air Act of 1981 which was also amended in 1987 was passed by the Indian government to control and reduce air pollution. The interesting thing of this act was that it was also called for the abatement of noise pollution.

The objective of the Environmental Protection (EP) Act, 1986 is to protect and improve the environment within the country. This is provided for civil and criminal penalties for violating the pollution standards. The environmental rules and regulations are enforced by the respective administrative authority.


The PCBs are composed of two tier system. The central level regulatory authority is the Central Pollution Control Boards (CPCB) and the state level regulatory authority is the State Pollution Control Boards.


The CPCB was established in 1974 under the provisions of Water Act. The CPCB consists of 12 members and 6 zonal offices. Some of the activities of CPCB are given below

· Standard formulations

· Effluent treatment plants

· Eco-labeling

· Hazardous waste management

· Recognition of laboratories

· Human capital

· Income and expenditure


The SPCBs are conducted under Section 4 of Water Act 1994 and functions of the authority are described in Section 17 of the act. Some of functions of SPCB are mentioned below.

· CFE and CFO

· Water cess

· Closure orders

· Income and expenditure

· Hazardous waste management

· Laboratory testing

· SPCB and human capital

· Legal cell


Though Indian government has two-tier authority to control the environmental pollution, but noise pollution is still considered very slightly under the air pollution act which is not sufficient enough. As India is one of the largest countries of the world and their population is also very huge number, so Indian government can come forward to tackle such kind of alarming situation.


Noise pollution has become an unwanted matter of our life. We cannot get rid of noise whether it is loud or mild, because we wake up with the noise of alarm clock and we fell asleep by hearing melodious songs. So it is impossible to kick it off from our life. As modern science and technology is improving the capacity of creating noise is also increasing significantly. So what we can do for our betterment is minimizing the noise level as much as possible.



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[1] See Columbia Law Review, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Apr., 1970), pp. 652-692, at 666, footnote 69.

[2] Of course, another problem is changing personal attitudes-millions of dollars have been spent on advertising so that housewives will prefer “powerful” sounding household appliances. While it is technically feasible to build a vacuum cleaner that is nearly silent, it may not sell very well because today’s housewife has been conditioned to the sound of power. See N.Y. Times, Apr. 30, 1969, at 31, cols. 4-8.

[3] A. PETERSON& E. GROSS,J R., supra note 4, at 3. Sound can be defined as a mechanical disturbance or an oscillation in pressure, stress, particle displacement, particle velocity, etc., propagated in an elastic medium, of such character as to be capable of exciting the sensation of hearing. By extension, the term sound is sometimes applied to any disturbance, irrespective of frequency, which may be propagated as a wave motion in an elastic medium. The medium in which the source exists is often indicated by an appropriate adjective, e.g., airborne, waterborne, structure borne. Sound can also be de-fined as the sensation of hearing excited by mechanical disturbance. Disturbances of frequency too high to be capable of exciting the sensation of hearing are described as ultrasonic. Hypersonic is the name given to ultrasonic disturbances in a medium, whose wavelength is comparable with the inter-molecular spacing. Disturbances of frequency too low to be capable of exciting the sensation of hearing are described as infrasonic. See id. at 213; BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION, BS661, GLOSSARY OF ACOUSTICAL TERM’S(1 969). For a discussion of the physical properties of sound, see W. BURNS, supra note 4, at 10-51; W. HALL & O. MATTHEWS, SOUND (2d ed. 1965); L. KINSLER & A. FREY, FUNDAMENTALS OF ACOUSTICS (1962); R. STEPHENS & A. BATE, ACOUSTICS AND VIBRATIONAL PHYSICS (1966).

[4]See Lehmann, Noise and Health, UNESCO COURIER, July 1967, at 26.