One of the biggest problems with the way we celebrate festivals in our country is the resultant noise pollution. In the larger cities that anyway grapple with the problem of noise pollution in everyday living, public celebrations like Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi only aggravate the issue. Loudspeakers, fire crackers and loud musical instruments are all culprits. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report noise pollution is considered not only an environmental nuisance but also a threat to public health.
The Supreme Court limits the noise levels in residential neighbourhoods to 55 decibels (dB) during the day and 45 dB at night. However, Awaaz Foundation’s Noise Report on Janmashtami 2012 found that these levels were being violated all over Mumbai & Thane, reaching a peak of 117 dB in the Kalachowkie area. Similarly, the 10th day Ganpati celebrations in 2012 saw decibel levels in the range of 90-110 dB, setting a new record at 121.4 dB at Girgaum Chowpatty. Continuous exposure to such high-decibel sound leads to health issues like hypertension, sleep disturbance, tinnitus (ringing of the ears) and even acute hearing loss. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable. Sumaira Abdulali, convenor of Awaaz Foundation, says that many teenagers in India already have hearing problems and that the increased exposure to high decibel noise during festivals can only lead to lasting damage.
Every year, in the aftermath of Ganpati celebrations, newspapers publish images of Girgaum Chowpatty and other immersion areas littered with huge parts of idols. The main culprit is, of course, the plaster of Paris (PoP) that is used to make majority of the idols. PoP takes several months to completely dissolve. Also, the paints used for colouring and decorating the idols contain high levels of mercury and lead, which adds to the pollution. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has found significantly higher levels of toxins in water bodies after immersion days. These pose a
great danger to the marine ecosystem and its biodiversity. These toxins also eventually enter the food chain.