On noisy cities chart, Delhi is a scream

Delhi needs to turn it down. Battling toxic air, the Capital has another problem – its high noise levels that pose a health risk.

Latest Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data shows the Capital is the noisiest city in the country, second only to Hyderabad.

Annual noise average for Delhi in 2014 was 74 decibels (dB) against the national safety mark of 55dB. The night reading was around 50dB, enough to cause hypertension if exposure is for a long period. The safety limit for night is 45dB, five decibels above the sound of a refrigerator.

Vehicles, construction work and industry are the biggest contributors to noise pollution, which can cause sleeplessness, hypertension, hearing loss and also up the risk of heart disease.

The national pollution watchdog monitored noise levels in seven cities as part of a national project and release the report last week.

The noisiest is the information technology hub of Punjagutta (77 dB) in Hyderabad, the shared capital of southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, followed by Chennai. Bengaluru is the quietest followed by Lucknow, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Delhi badly needs some quiet time. In 2011 and 2012, noise levels dropped during summer vacation months of May and June. But in 2014, even during this relatively quieter period, the levels matched those for the rest of the year.

While ITO was marginally loud in three year from 2011, places such as Dwarka, Rohini, Vikas Marg and Dilshad Garden recorded a spike in levels.

“An increase in movement of heavy traffic in outskirts of Delhi especially during night hours could be the possible cause,” a CPCB official said.

Night noise is another disturbing trend. Unlike other cities, Delhi’s din doesn’t drop as the sun goes down.

There is no data available but doctors say the number of people with hearing problems has gone up in recent years.

“The age group affected the most is also coming down. Five years back, most of the patients were between 65 and 70 years, now it affects people in their 50s,” said Dr Ajay Swaroop, senior ENT consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

Doctors attribute it to constant exposure to noise. “As ambient noise is high, people tend to listen to music on cellphones and watch television at a higher level, affecting one’s hearing,” said another doctor.

On noisy cities chart, Delhi is a scream

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