Mumbai: A notification by the Maharashtra Government allowing ambulances to blow the sirens louder so as to navigate through traffic has met with disapproval from both Mumbaikars and activists.

The government’s notification on Thursday allows a maximum level of 120 decibels (dB) for ambulance sirens so that traffic police can notice them and clear the way quickly.

“Ambulances in the state have siren audibility of about 65-75db,” said Aaditya Thackeray, Shiv Sena youth leader and son of party president Uddhav Thackeray.

“Due to low audibility, sometimes traffic police can’t hear the siren and don’t clear the traffic to let the ambulance pass. We have written to the Transport Minister Diwakar Raote and Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam demanding of rules,” he said.

But Mumbaikars are not happy and feel that traffic police should enforce proper rules for motorists to give way when an ambulance is rushing to a hospital. Ambulance drivers are often seen trying hard to make their way ahead as the roads are chock-a-block with vehicles.

“We are living in a city where noise levels are going up every day—be it building construction or road work or heavy traffic when motorists honk continuously,” says a retired teacher and grandmother, Geeta Sharma. “Screeching ambulances add to the noise levels and even my granddaughter wakes up with a start when an ambulance rushes past near our home to a nearby hospital.

And environmental activist Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation, who has been fighting against noise pollution for years, is disturbed by the notification and has strongly objected to it.

In a letter to Kadam, she wrote, “We appeal to you, on behalf of critically ill patients using ambulances as transport to hospital to consider the ill effects of intolerable noise levels. We also appeal on behalf of other residents of Mumbai whose health would be jeopardized by such high noise levels on our streets.”

She has also pointed that 120 dB is a dangerous level to the safety of the patient inside the ambulance and to the hospitals and other Silence Zones placed along roadsides. She says that most ambulances in Mumbai, unlike those in the US and UK, do not have any sound insulation.

“International studies indicate that it is unsafe even for healthy people to be exposed to 120db of sound for more than 7 seconds…

“The Indian Noise Pollution Rules are based on the World Health Organisation Report “Community Noise” which states that areas around hospitals should be defined as Silence Zones so that patients are not exposed to noise pollution over 50dB in the day time and 40 dB in the nighttime.

“Awaaz Foundation has measured noise levels from sirens in London and Mumbai. The measurements in Mumbai were carried out along with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in 2014 and maximum decibel level was 100dB. The measurement in London were carried out in May 2017 and maximum decibel level was 94 dB.” She has appealed to the minister to withdraw the proposal immediately.