Cities in festive times

The air in our cities is full of celebration and gaiety. Yes, the festival season is already here and will continue for some months. It is a time everyone – children, families, trade and business – looks forward to. Accompanied with the usual celebrations, it is also time for new purchases – of food, clothing, home appliances, gadgets, automobiles, and so on. And therefore business and trade look to these times with great expectation. It is a time when the rich cultural tapestry and panorama of our country is on display, be it food, or clothing or the arts (dance, drama). So much so that some of the events in cities attract visitors from all over the country and even from overseas.
While these celebrations present a grand spectacle, they have also now become a source of concern and anxiety. These are times of high noise and elevated decibel levels. Loudspeakers playing recorded music, and processions with the beating of drums and lighting of firecrackers are common sources of noise. High noise levels during Indian festivals has resulted in authorities including the courts stepping in to regulate decibel levels and restrict timings of events. The ill-effects of extended, elevated decibel levels on humans and animals is often neglected or underestimated.Exposure to high decibel levels for extended periods at the workplace or other places may result in early-age impairment of hearing, disorders caused by disturbed sleep, annoyance, hypertension and even cardiac diseases. Often, a noisy environment is known to induce aggression and anti-social behaviour among exposed persons.
These are times for all concerned to exercise caution and restraint. Citizens and participants in festivals need to observe and abide by regulations including respecting silence zones such as hospitals and schools. Local governments and authorities need to put in place appropriate regulations. In addition they could create greater awareness on the ill-effects of noise and thus induce responsible behaviour. Noise is a hazard not just during festive times but all through; it only gets elevated during festivals. City traffic characterised by incivility, disorder, chaos and lawlessness, causes high noise. Speeding vehicles, screeching tyres and indiscriminate honking can be heard everywhere. This festive season let us commit to spread joy and goodwill while creating less noisy and more tranquil cities.
This issue of Urban Update deals with Urban Demography. It makes an attempt to see how responsive our cities are to the needs of a cross section of citizens. How cities all over are working to address the aspirations of different age groups of its residents, citizens of different educational and literacy profiles; the special needs of elders and so on. While to start with, not all cities may be able to meet the needs of all citizen groups, cities cannot be designed for the average citizen either. Cities must work to meet the aspirations of as many groups and then keep improving. We hope to generate more interest and debate on these aspects in our quest towards ‘Cities for All’.

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