Jarring Jammu Unpacking the causes and consequences of urban noise pollution

Monika Dogra
Every morning, the anticipation of enduring the cacophony of traffic noise during my commute to the office fills me with anxiety. During my 40-minute drive, the lingering unease I feel gets the better of my nerves, making me susceptible to causing accidents. This has become so ingrained in my psyche that I am already experiencing its aftereffects, with my stress levels having increased significantly in recent times. Many evenings, even after arriving home, the noise persists in my mind so vividly that it has begun to haunt me in my nightmares. It’s no exaggeration to say that I often feel like pulling my hair out in frustration. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and if you’re driving a car on Jammu roads any day, you’ll share the same experience.
The escalating noise levels in Jammu city are a matter of concern for everyone, and unless we address it seriously, the situation will only deteriorate further. It’s crucial for us to understand the extent of environmental damage caused by noise pollution, both within Jammu city and its suburbs.
Despite the growing concern highlighted by an amateur study conducted by Ms. Sheetal, Shashi Devi, and Anil Thakur in a July 2022 paper for Research Gate, it appears that relevant departments have failed to adequately monitor the levels of noise pollution in Jammu city. This failure is particularly alarming considering the significant increase in the number of vehicles on Jammu’s roads over the years.
Studying noise pollution on a professional, daily basis is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it allows us to accurately assess the extent of the problem and its impact on public health and well-being. By monitoring noise levels consistently, researchers can identify trends, hotspots, and potential sources of excessive noise, facilitating targeted interventions to mitigate its effects.
Secondly, making this information readily available to the public empowers individuals to take necessary precautions. Whether it’s choosing quieter routes for walking or cycling, using noise-cancelling headphones during commutes, or advocating for soundproofing measures in homes and workplaces, access to real-time noise data enables people to make informed decisions to protect their auditory and overall health.
Exposure to noise pollution can have varying impacts on different demographic groups, including children, women, and adults. For children, excessive noise can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue, irritability, and difficulties in concentration, which in turn may affect their academic performance and overall development. Prolonged exposure to loud noise during critical developmental stages may also increase the risk of hearing loss.
Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of noise pollution, as it can elevate stress levels and contribute to complications such as hypertension and preterm birth. Additionally, studies suggest that chronic exposure to noise may heighten the risk of cardiovascular diseases and mental health issues among adults, including anxiety, depression, and even cognitive impairment.
According to Dr. Sundeep Salvi, director of the Chest Research Foundation in Pune, the significant health implications of noise pollution cannot be overstated.
“Noise pollution not only affects hearing but also has wide-ranging consequences on cardiovascular health, sleep quality, and mental well-being,” Dr. Salvi cautioned. “In densely populated urban areas like Jammu, there is an urgent need for stringent regulations and public awareness campaigns to address the growing menace of noise pollution.
As a teacher-training institute, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) can collaborate with the Traffic Police, Regional Transport Office (RTO), and Pollution Control Board to conduct specialized programs for teachers. These programs can focus on raising awareness about noise pollution, its sources, impacts, and mitigation strategies.
Equipped with this knowledge, teachers can effectively disseminate information to students in schools, integrating it into various subjects and extracurricular activities. By partnering with law enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies, SCERT can ensure that teachers are equipped with the latest information and resources to educate students about noise pollution and instil in them a culture of environmental responsibility from a young age.
The Traffic Police shoulders a critical responsibility in addressing noise pollution, and a shift in focus from mere penalization to proactive education is imperative. While penalties serve as deterrents, they’re insufficient without complementary efforts to instil a culture of responsible driving.
There’s a noticeable gap in initiatives aimed at educating the public on proper driving etiquette and its impact on noise pollution. Therefore, it’s vital for the Traffic Police to prioritize educational endeavours.
Seminars, events, and quiz competitions organized in collaboration with educational institutions can serve as effective platforms for disseminating knowledge about noise pollution and safe driving practices. Engaging all stakeholders in these initiatives fosters a sense of collective responsibility and encourages compliance with noise regulations. By championing education alongside enforcement, the Traffic Police can significantly contribute to mitigating noise pollution and encouraging safer road environments for all.
Lastly, ensuring road safety and promoting responsible driving behaviour requires a comprehensive approach to the issuance of driving licenses. Rather than a cursory test, the process should entail a thorough assessment of candidates’ driving skills and etiquette. Adherence to traffic laws and regulations should form the cornerstone of this evaluation. Candidates must demonstrate not only their ability to operate a vehicle but also their understanding of road safety principles and respect for fellow road users.
By emphasizing these aspects, the Regional Transport Office (RTO) can contribute significantly to creating a safer road environment and reducing instances of noise pollution and road accidents.
It is important to recognize that the responsibility for mitigating the effects of noise pollution ultimately rests on each one of us. Whether as drivers, pedestrians, or passengers, we all have a part to play in making Jammu a quieter noise-free city.
(The author is an academic officer at the SCERT Jammu)

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