Diwali a festival of lights (not sound)

By EDN India volunteer Diptayan Roy.

Diwali is a festival that among other things, celebrates the victory of good over evil. This festival marks the return of Lord Rama after vanquishing the demon Ravana – as written in the centuries old Indian epic the Ramayana. By tradition, homes are lit with clay lamps, candles, fairy lights, and firecrackers light the sky as people rejoice in the festival. Over the years, the bursting of fire crackers have reached high noise levels during Diwali. This year, to build awareness among the general public about sound pollution and the need to keep the bursting of firecrackers within the officially permitted 90 decibels, Earth Day Network staff Neela Majumdar and Debapriya Dutt, and several Earth Day Network volunteers, joined the Kolkata Police walk. The West Bengal state’s Minister for Sports also participated.

The 2-km walk went along some of the busiest parts of Kolkata. Students who had made posters to focus on the need to reduce sound pollution and NGOs who would help spread the message: "Diwali is a festival of lights not sound," also participated. Hundreds of Kolkata citizens watched this awareness drive come to life.

While taking part in the rally our team utilized the opportunity to talk about the work Earth Day Network does to protect our environment. Many were inspired and expressed an interest to volunteer and be part of a movement for a better tomorrow.

In India, there are several laws that restrict sound pollution. For example, the use of loudspeakers is regulated under rule 5 of The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000, issued under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Others are protected by pollution control laws. The Supreme Court of India has also restricted the use, sale and storing of noisy fireworks that generate noise levels of more than 90 decibels. Spreading awareness about the importance of stemming sound pollution is especially relevant during Diwali, and the Kolkata High Court has been a pioneer in this regard by making sould pollution a punishable offense.

There are still many in the general public that are unaware of these laws, and of the fact that noise pollution is hazardous to humans. Noise pollution also creates imbalances in the environment too. This awareness walk reminded the public that on Diwali night we are clearly playing with fire as the short term impact is hearing problems and air pollution, but the long term damages are far more dangerous.