Mumbai tests noisy drivers with ‘punishing signal’

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Updated 03 March 2020

Mumbai tests noisy drivers with ‘punishing signal’

  • Traffic authorities are trying to curb sound pollution by rewarding patient commuters

MUMBAI: It is simple — the more that you honk at a traffic signal, the longer you wait.
The solution launched by authorities in India’s financial capital aims to tackle Mumbai’s deafening noise pollution problem.
Through a video released by the Mumbai traffic police on their social media platforms on Jan. 31, commuters were introduced to the “punishing signal,” which had special decibel (dB) meters connected to it at congested junctions across the city to monitor the level of noise generated.
When the decibel level exceeds the dangerous 85dB mark due to incessant honking, the signal timer resets itself and turns red, forcing motorists to wait longer.
“This small experiment is one of the many attempts by Mumbai police to create better road discipline. Hopefully, it will encourage Mumbaikars to honk less and create a honk free and stress-free commute,” Mumbai’s Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Madhukar Pandey told Arab News.The experiment has achieved good results, so much so that authorities are now looking at conducting another trial.However, authorities said that it was too early to gauge whether there was any tangible reduction in noise levels at congested junctions.“The traffic police are in the process of conducting another trial though we have yet to decide on the date,” Pranay Ashok, deputy commissioner of police and spokesperson for the Mumbai police, told Arab News.“Based on our initial experience, a detailed, scientific study on where to place the decibel meters as well as various technical issues — will be carried out,” Ashok said.He said that the initial experiment “received a positive response and thousands of people appreciated the effort.”The initiative follows findings by the World Health Organization (WHO), which links ischemic heart disease, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment among children and stress-related mental health risks to excessive noise pollution.
Mumbai has a high density of vehicles with 530 v/km and is among the noisiest cities in the world. Therefore, efforts to curb this menace, especially from the din of honking, has always been a challenge for the city.
Since sharing the post on their social media handles, the Mumbai traffic police video has amassed 3.6 million views.
The project has seen decibel meters installed at highly populated junctions such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (rail) Terminus (CSMT), formerly known as the Victoria Terminus, Marine Drive, Pedder Road, Hindmata, and Bandra.Environmentalists welcomed the move, but said that more needed to be done to keep a check on noise pollution.“I think it is a very good awareness campaign. The police’s intentions are commendable, but we must move onto fines and penalties as in the case of drunk driving and motorists without helmets,” Sumaira Abdulali, Mumbai’s well-known anti-noise activist and environmentalist, told Arab News.
Abdulali runs an NGO called the Awaaz Foundation and is perhaps the first person in India to crusade against noise and other environmental concerns in Mumbai and Maharashtra in a pragmatic way by networking with citizens’ groups.“It’s only when people pay fines that they begin to follow rules and therefore enforcement is the key,” she said.Noise at major traffic signals, she said, is also exceedingly high during festivals and celebrations with honking in India emanating noise levels as high as 110dB, or equivalent to that generated at a rock concert.“It has taken so many years to take note of noise as a problem,” she said, “but it’s a good beginning. Awareness in Mumbai is high compared to other cities and certainly people’s voices are heard here.”Since the launch of he new scheme, the authorities have received their share of bouquets and brickbats.Reacting to Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh’s tweet: “To change your tomorrow, we must change our habits today! We have taken the 1st step to end the menace of excessive honking in #Mumbai. Watch it and #HonkResponsibly,” one Twitter user, Sanjay Kumar Yadav, said: “Great Job sir. It’s called real use of technology.”Others felt the idea should be replicated in other cities.
However, Twitter user Ganesan Sheregar questioned the practicality of the initiative and asked @MumbaiPolice: “What would happen if someone had to be rushed to hospital in an emergency and gets stuck in this decibel trap?”A motorist and banking executive, who commutes for more than an hour one way, every day said: “Such gimmicks will not work.”
Mumbai and India have a plethora of rules and regulations on air and noise pollution. The Central Pollution Control Board, a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has stipulated that all state governments across the country should ensure that rules under the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules 2000 are strictly enforced.
It means control as well as abatement of noise in different areas and zones, including noise emanating from vehicular movement, use of horns, loud speakers, playing loud music and ensuring that no offenses are committed in silent zones in hospitals and educational institutions.
Traffic noise and congestion not only affects the mental and physical health of commuters and residents in the vicinity, but has a negative impact on the economy.A study conducted by Uber-Boston Consulting Group in 2018 showed that India’s biggest cities — Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore — could be losing $22 billion annually in fuel waste, reduced productivity, air pollution and accidents. The analysis said that the need for ride-sharing/car pooling in India was greater than ever.
 


UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

Updated 31 October 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

  • Lockdown starts just after midnight on Thursday morning
  • United Kingdom has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England back into a national lockdown after the United Kingdom passed the milestone of one million COVID-19 cases and a second wave of infections threatened to overwhelm the health service.
The United Kingdom, which has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19, is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day and scientists have warned the “worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.
Johnson, at a hastily convened news conference in Downing Street after news of a lockdown leaked to local media, said that the one-month lockdown across England would kick in at a minute past midnight on Thursday morning and last until Dec. 2.
In some of the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history, people will only be allowed to leave home for specific reasons such as education, work, exercise, shopping for essentials and medicines or caring for the vulnerable.
“Now is the time to take action because there is no alternative,” Johnson said, flanked by his chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and his chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance.
The government will revive its emergency coronavirus wage subsidy scheme to ensure workers who are temporarily laid off during a new England-wide lockdown receive 80% of their pay.
Essential shops, schools, and universities will remain open, Johnson said. Pubs and restaurants will be shut apart from for takeaways. All non-essential retail will close.
Johnson’s imposition of stricter curbs came after scientists warned the outbreak was going in the wrong direction and that action was needed to halt the spread of the virus if families were to have any hope of gathering at Christmas.
Johnson was criticized by political opponents for moving too slowly into the first national lockdown, which stretched from March 23 to July 4. He fell ill with COVID in late March and was hospitalized in early April.
The measures bring England into alignment with France and Germany by imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy this year into its deepest recession in generations.
So far the United Kingdom has reported 46,555 COVID-19 deaths — defined as those dying within 28 days of a positive test. A broader death measure of those with COVID-19 on their death certificates gives the toll as 58,925.
The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth largest official death toll, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.