In West Bengal, the highest permissible sound limit for fire crackers remained fixed at 90 decibel at 5 metres from the source area of the sound this time, raising hopes for a quieter Diwali but in most neighbourhoods, people experienced high levels of noise pollution due to crackers.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had considered the application of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) and had given the WBPCB the liberty to take an independent decision on the highest permissible limit.
Earlier, the NGT had relaxed the highest permissible decibel limit after several cracker producing units and traders appealed to them seeking a relaxation in the decibel limit from 90 decibel within 5 metres (of the sound source) to 125 decibel within 4 metres. In the case of West Bengal, the limit stood at 90 decibel while in some other states the highest limit was 125 decibel. Fashion designer Jatinn Kochchar said, “High decibel Crackers are for people who are hard of hearing. Mere mortals like me are happy with candles and diyas.This Diwali don't burst crackers, be a pataka yourself with a glorious smile.”
Traders’ organisations that manufacture firecrackers naturally wanted to increase the decibel limit and appealed to the Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court. Both the courts had rejected their prayer, considering that it would take a toll on the environment. “But you must keep in mind that this is a festival. You cannot stop people from bursting crackers. However if people buy crackers with less noise levels and the cops are more vigilant, then you can actually save trouble for people who are distressed by high level of noise pollution, like heart patients”, said publisher Raju Burman of Rupa & Co.
In the social media, various environmental organisations welcomed the WBPCB’s restrictions and said that the people would have a hard time during Diwali this year if the highest permissible sound limit for the firecrackers was extended to 125 decibel.
Animal rights groups also urged the public from bursting noisy crackers as they frightened animals, especially dogs and birds.
But as the evening progressed the cracker onslaught remained unabated in some areas, causing the aged people and animals to cringe.