Mumbai: In a city with over 50 flyovers, most of which run past residential areas, barely half a dozen have been fitted with the mandated barriers which can bring noise levels down. This, despite repeated complaints by residents in various areas and an amendment to Development Control rules (DCR), which makes it compulsory to install them.
The barriers have to be installed by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which built most of the flyovers. Both cite shortage of funds as the main reason for the violation. Considering that barriers would cost roughly Rs 6-7 crore per flyover—a fraction of the cost of building a flyover—the explanation does seem odd.
In Mumbai, noise barriers for flyovers first became a reality after BMC and MMRDA officials travelled to Italy in 2011 to study the concept of noise reduction. Apart from flyovers, a 1,500-metre noise barrier was also erected by MMRDA along the Indian Institute of Technology campus perimeter in 2012 and on the Kalanagar stretch at Bandra-Kurla Complex. These were panels of pre-galvanized sheets, painted in keeping with the aesthetics of the surroundings and mounted on the flyovers. If placed correctly, they lower noise by up to 17 decibels, according to studies done by Awaaz Foundation (TOI’s campaign against noise is in association with this NGO).
Some more have been erected on Sion Hospital, King’s Circle, Hindmata and Dahisar flyovers. On the 16.8km Eastern Freeway, which connects P D’Mello Road in south Mumbai with Eastern Express Highway at Ghatkopar, too, there are stretches where barriers are visible. A few of them are of inferior material though, and serve only to block the view into nearby areas while others may be in inappropriate locations.
Anti-noise activist Sumaira Abdulali said there is an urgent need for scientific studies to be done before erecting barriers. “For example, noise barriers have been erected on the Sion flyover. Instead, these should have been erected near the Sion Circle junction where there is continuous movement of vehicles. There is a need for a noise-mapping study or else the infrastructure may not prove to be useful at all. Noise barriers are more helpful when erected at heavy traffic junctions. In case of BKC, barriers were put at the request of the residents and they are happy with it. This is what the authorities should look at doing instead of randomly placing them on any flyover,” said Abdulali.
MMRDA officials said there are plans to install them on two more flyovers on the Eastern Expressway, but there are no deadlines as of now and there is no clarity on whether studies are being undertaken.
In case of MSRDC, of the 23 flyovers it built in the Mumbai metropolitan region, only one in Thane at Kapurbawadi has noise barriers at present—residents and commercial establishments along the remaining 22 have to cope with the sound pollution that easily goes beyond the permissible 45-65 decibels range.
The agency, which has a budget of a few hundred crores, though, says it is now in the process of finalizing a proposal to build barriers on JJ flyover more than 15 years after its completion.
“People living along JJ flyover have demanded such barriers but it all depends on the state and financially sound agencies like MMRDA who can make funds available for the purpose,” a senior MSRDC engineer told TOI .
MSRDC, which built the Bandra-Worli sea link, cites poor finances as the reason for lack of initiative on its part. The agency has scores of important flyovers to maintain such as the ones at Sion, J J, Vakola, JVLR, Duttapada, Aaarey Colony, Kandivli, Borivli National Park, Nitin Cadbury, Teen Hath Naka and Golden Dyes. It has contracted work of maintenance of these flyovers and certain subways to Mumbai Entry Point Toll, which collects toll against their maintenance at five toll posts—Vashi, Airoli, Mulund, LBS and Dahisar—on the city’s fringes.
According to MSRDC officials, only flyovers within a 30-metre distance from residential buildings need barriers; those who live beyond may not get disturbed. They said barriers on flyovers only cut the sound emanating from vehicles taking the flyovers. Noise from those zooming below the viaducts remains unchecked. To make residential areas fully sound-proof, such barriers are needed along building boundaries as well. Mumbai has two road stretches—one at BKC along Matoshree in Kalanagar and the other at IIT, Powai campus on JVLR—which have barriers erected by MMRDA along the road to obstruct noise of vehicles entering these areas.
Sion resident G R Vora from the F-North Ward Citizens’ Federation said authorities need to analyze and do research before erecting noise barriers. “In case residential buildings are near flyovers, these barriers has helped but in case of barriers which have been erected on the Sion hospital flyover the buildings and the hospital are located at a distance and therefore it is not proving to be very useful,” said Vora.