In Bangalore and in Delhi there are problems with opposition by residents to aircraft noise
As the debate on aircraft noise affecting people staying close to airports gathers momentum in India, the Indian newspaper, The Hindu, prints an interview with Dr M. L. Munjal, Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and head of the National Committee on Noise Pollution Control, who outlines the various issues involved. He says there are more people affected by aircraft noise near airports, as more people live close to them. It is necessary to plan better, to take account of the noise airports will create. Precautions need to be taken to see that the living communities did not get too close to airports, and the areas that will have most aircraft noise should be taken into account better by planners in a city’s master-plan, eg. the Delhi Development Authority master plan. IDesigning for quietness is the most cost-effective way of finding a solution. He hopes India will learn from the mistakes made earlier by other countries that developed their airline industries before India. In March 2011, the Delhi High Court ruled that sound sleep is a fundamental right of citizens.
Bangalore: ‘Noise control: Make the right design choices’
9.1.2013 (The Hindu)
By ASHWINI PHADNIS
As the debate on aircraft noise affecting people staying close to airports gathers momentum in India, Dr M. L. Munjal, Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and head of the National Committee on Noise Pollution Control, outlines the various issues involved.
Excerpts from the interview:
Of late, there has been a lot of talk about airports and how the noise of the aircraft is causing a lot of discomfort to residents nearby. What is the reason for this sudden interest in airport noise?
Airport noise is something that we have been taking for granted. One reason for this is that all the airports were sufficiently away from living areas. It is just that cities have been growing and getting closer to the airports.
An airport cannot be physically shifted, but we could have taken precautions to see that the living communities did not get too close to the airport. Near an airport, there is a funnel at about a 30-degree angle, where noise is at the maximum on both sides. These could be marked on a city’s master-plan, such as, say, the Delhi Development Authority master plan.
Is this being done right now?
No, it is not. And even where it is done, it is not shared with the public. The apprehension is that if they declare this, then the property value will come down and therefore it is in everyone’s vested interests to not talk about it.
Both sellers as well as buyers are involved in this. All of us are party to it. To say that the Airports Authority is to blame or DIAL is to blame is really deviating from the truth.
You mentioned Bangalore?
I can see what is happening in Bangalore now. The airport has been shifted. It used to be in the centre of the city. Now, it has been shifted 35 km away and look at the cost we are paying for it — so much extra fuel, extra time and air pollution.
All this is happening at a cost but even then the advantage is being frittered away because the city is expanding and localities are getting closer to the airport again. All the property values have gone up in that area because everyone wants to be as near the airport as possible. No one is worried about the noise. That seems to be the last concern.
Noise has always been a late comer to the scene, even in industry. First, you do everything you want to do — make the machines, make the layouts, do everything and then say: “Oh my God, noise!”
Noise should be taken care of right at the planning stage. Designing for quietness is the most cost-effective way of finding a solution. It costs you very little. I am saying this because I was a consultant with a premier car manufacturer. We were able to design a vehicle, which, within six months of the first prototype, satisfied international standards of noise. It did not cost much because we made the right choices in the design.
Right choices such as what?
That will require too many technical details. But what I am saying is that the engine you choose, the speed you choose, the configuration of the engine you choose, and how it is mounted and the floor of the vehicle, all make a difference.
When you make the right choices it does not cost you anything, or if it does, it costs very little.
But once a vehicle is given to you and then you say please do something, then that something turns out to be very costly, because something will have to be undone, and something new will have to be added, some costs will have to be borne. So, retrofitting is never the right solution.
Have the right choices not been made for airport noise?
In the case of airport noise control, the whole thing is a retrofit. All of us have to sit together and bear the cost. And cost does not necessarily imply money, it could also be discomfort.
Isn’t airport noise something that happens globally?
Every country has gone through these problems but they started in, say, the 1960s or 1970s. So, now we have an advantage of what they learnt from their experience. Let us not make those mistakes.
How are you trying to create awareness about noise in society?
This is being done in many ways. Through radio, television, cartoons. Look at fire-crackers. Delhi took a lead on that because the teachers started talking to children, telling them that the crackers they were using and enjoying were being made by other children who were losing their childhood. They were paying a price for it. That appealed to every child.
Now you see that instead of parents telling children not to use crackers, it is the children who are telling their parents not to buy crackers.
Another thing I have been telling people is how much they are harming themselves at discotheques. They are subjecting themselves to 125 decibels; it is like a truck without a muffler. That is the kind of noise they subject themselves to, in the name of music.
Noise has been recognised as a slow poison that teenagers subject themselves to, and by the time they realise its harm, it is much too late.
The Delhi High Court has opined that right to sound sleep is a fundamental right of every citizen. The High Court said that the right to sound sleep is integral for sound health, which is inalienable facet of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The opinion came while High Court was hearing a petition filed by the residents of Vasant Kunj, Delhi seeking relief against the noise pollution caused by landing of aircraft at the neighboring IGI Airport.
For more information, see below:
Sleep a fundamental right of citizens: High Court
New Delhi, March 30, 2011
Chief justice Dipak Misra and justice Sanjiv Khanna on Tuesday heard an audio-visual plea by the residents of Vasant Kunj, Masudpur and Rangpuri. The court also heard the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) and Airport Authority of India (AAI).
While Chetna, an NGO, played audio recordings of the noise of aircraft landing during a special hearing, DIAL and AAI presented a video recording of measures they proposed to take to reduce sound levels based on “data-basis expertise and international parameters”.
The DIAL and DGCA assured steps like installation of sound barriers, banning of aircraft manufactured prior to 1970, extending the landing spot, releasing of landing wheels on a higher altitude at a much further distance and restoration of night curfew (banning of landing and take-off between 10pm and 6am).
Additional solicitor general AS Chandhiok assured the court that an expert committee was looking into all the issues. The court has sought a detailed affidavit to be filed by May 25.
The civil aviation ministry has also been asked to look into objections raised by Anil Sood, president of Chetna.
While seeking an audio-visual presentation, the Bench said “every citizen has a right to sleep peacefully in night and no noise shall disturb his/her sound sleep. The concept of sound sleep is associated with sound health, which is an inseparable facet of Article 21 of the Constitution. We hope the respondent authorities while conceiving the idea to mitigate noise pollution in the backdrop of international parameters shall also keep in mind the facets of Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution”.
The residents contended that noise was beyond permissible limit fixed for residential areas and also violated the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
Residents said the area was a protected ‘silent zone’ with over 20 senior secondary schools, research centers, the Nuclear Science Centre, nursing homes in the vicinity.
Indira Gandhi International (IGI) neighbours object to lowering of Shiv statue
NEW DELHI: While work is still to start on the lowering of the Shiv Murti [a large statue] near the new runway of the IGI airport, residents of Vasant Vihar and the management of the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre have raised objections to the expected rise in noise pollution with the step.
Once the statue is lowered, aircraft will have an additional 500 m or so available from the Vasant Kunj side for landing which also means that they will start their descent a little earlier. The height of the Shiv Murti had rendered the new runway, technically the longest in Asia, unusable by a third.
Vasant Vihar residents had filed a case in court against noise pollution from landing aircraft and the court had directed Airports Authority of India to take measures to reduce noise in the area.
Subsequently, a system was devised in which the main and new runways are being used alternately for arrival and departure at night in two shifts. The timings are also reversed for the runways each week “to ensure that no particular area has to bear the brunt of aircraft noise”, said an airport official. “For instance, if the new runway is used for arrivals between 11pm and 3am this week and for departures between 3am and 7am, the order will be reversed in the next week.”
However, residents of Vasant Vihar say that if noise pollution is high despite these measures, once the Shiv Murti is lowered, it will be much higher. “We were told that old noisy aircraft would be phased out but that has not happened yet. The government is not even thinking of implementing night curfew which is in place in foreign countries. The patients coming to this hospital suffer the most, especially those in ICU. Once the aircraft start flying lower, noise will also go up and vibrations will also increase,” said Major H P S Ahluwalia, chairman, ISIC.
Residents claim that aircraft landing on runway 29 will fly almost 40 feet lower than before, resulting in substantial increase in noise in the entire Vasant Kunj area which comes under the landing funnel.
“It is expected that the intensity of aircraft noise pollution would increase in Vasant Kunj and Rangpuri by over 50% due to the reduced height at which the aircraft shall fly over these areas. The current aircraft noise is above the limits set by the Central Pollution Control Board for ‘residential’ and ‘silence’ zones and the noise mitigation case is pending before the Delhi high court. There is also the issue of carbon fall, air pollutants that are emitted by the aircraft which will fall directly into the residential area,” said a resident.
Residents of IGI area to clarify on noise complaint to High Court
Adjudicating a bunch of petitions pertaining to noise pollution in the area surrounding IGI Airport, the Delhi High Court asked the residents on Wednesday if had agreed to a clause that they would not complain against the noise at the time of getting the land allotment.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna asked the counsel of one of the three petitioners if there was an understanding before getting or purchasing the plots in the areas near IGI Airport that the residents would not object to the noise caused by the aircraft. “Is it correct that while purchasing the properties, you (residents) had given your consent in the agreement that you will not object to the noise? You knew that the airport was coming up in the vicinity,” the Bench asked the counsel for Bijwasan Gram Vikas Samiti, which represented the three societies.
The other petitioner in the case is the Vasant Kunj-based Indian Spinal Injuries Hospital, which alleged that the noise created by landing aircraft, which fly at a height of only 200-300 feet, was disturbing patients. The third petitioner happens to be a civil group called Society for Protection of Culture Heritage Environment Traditions and Promotions of National Heritage.
When the hearing began on Wednesday, the Bench sought to know what further directives could be passed when the authorities, including the Central government and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DIAL), have already been doing their bit to reduce the noise.
Appearing for the Civil Aviation Ministry, Additional Solicitor General A S Chandhiok had earlier informed the court that steps were already being taken to bring noise levels down as an expert committee was looking into the issue. Some of these measures include a night curfew on landing and take-off, phasing out of older aircraft, installation of sound barriers at key points, etc. Justice Khanna said while the authorities were on the job, the residents were required to disclose if they had made an undertaking against objecting to the noise.
The counsel, however, expressed ignorance in the matter and said he would have to enquire about this from his clients. The court then posted the matter to August 17.
It would appear, from the very skimpy and inadequate Factsheet on Noise and Community, put out by DIAL (Delhi Interational Airport Ltd) that little is being done, other than talk and “going through the motions”.