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Sound Baffles can tackle loud sounds caused by heavy traffic

July 26, 2007

India is developing at a fast clip and nothing reminds us more of this fact every single day than the growing number of vehicles on the roads. Usually its the traffic jams, lack of parking space and accidents that we complain about. All these are terrible for motorists….but what about the price that citizens pay by way of sound pollution?

Those who live on the main roads have to suffer it. Developed countries seem to have fixed this problem. Either most residences are away from busy roads or some sort of effort has been made to combat sound pollution by erecting barriers. I am not sure about this…couldn’t find much information on the internet.

But what I do know that in India there are thousands of people who live on busy roads. Either the apartments have been there for years and the road has just got noisier or flyovers have suddenly started to stare right into drawing rooms…

Attempts to tackle sound pollution of other kinds has been happening. There are efforts to curb loud music after 10 p.m. for example but I had not read anything about the government doing something to help the citizens who have to bear the cacophony of traffic every single minute of their time at home. And considering that Mumbai is a city that hardly sleeps I wonder how people who live on main roads ever manage to get sleep …

So imagine my surprise when as I drove into the city yesterday. I noticed something I had not noticed before. Some sort of sound silencers or baffles on a flyover over Mohammed Ali Road!

I had seen similar (more sophisticated) structures at various places in China, but this was the first time I had noticed it in India. So we are not that technologically backward I told myself…and our government does seem to care about people.

Until I saw this:

Advertisement bills pasted on the sound baffles which defeated their very purpose. I wonder how much the BMC (Mumbai Municipal corporation) spent on these and now how much they are now making from the advertisements. All at the cost of the citizens. I refuse to believe that the ads do not reduce the effectiveness of the baffles.

This is a photograph of sound baffles in China and you can see for yourself the way they are used:

Sound Baffles

Sound Baffles

(Photos taken by me in Mumbai and ALL are copyrighted)

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. B Chopra permalink
    July 26, 2007 9:36 am

    This is great piece of informations & well taken pics.. This information helps & one should suggest these sound silencers or baffles to Nagar Palika Officials.. Especially they are urgently required for suffering Hospitals.. Right now!

    Following are the three BIG hospitals and all are just few feet away from one of the BUSIEST roads in Bangalore.. See the stats.. unacceptable.. forget apartments in Hospitals too where noise shouldn’t exceed 55 db.

    Manipal Hospital, Airport Road
    Starting time: 10.15 am
    At the gate: Average 77.9 db; Minimum 69.2 db; Maximum 88.7 db; Peak level 103.2 db

    Inside with open window (New born care room on the sixth floor): Average 65.9 db; Minimum 60 db; Maximum: 74 db; Peak level 88 db.

    Same room with closed window: Reduction of 10 db in average noise levels

    Wockhardt Hospital, Cunningham Road
    Starting time: 11.05 am
    At the gate: Average 78 db; Minimum 69 db; Maximum 87.8 db; Peak level 107.3 db

    Inside with open window (doctors’ lounge on the first floor): Average 59.6 db; Minimum 58.2 db; Maximum 72.2; Peak levels 90 db

    Same room with closed window: Reduction of 10 db in average noise levels

    Mallya Hospital, Vittal Mallya Road
    Starting time: 11.50 am
    At the gate: Average 78.2 db; Minimum 65.9 db; Maximum 88.5 db; Peak hour 103.1

    Inside with open window (private room on the fourth floor): Average 67.2 db; Minimum 63.6; Maximum 72.7 db; Peak levels 91.7

    Same room with closed window and curtain: Average 53 db; Minimum 46 db; Maximum 61.8 db; Peak levels 80.9 db

    😦 – There are many more hospitals like that.. I guess more than 60% hospitals have sound problem.. Surprising!

  2. July 26, 2007 9:51 am

    Thanks Bharath for your detailed information. It has greatly added value to my post.
    Yes you are right, its the hospitals who need the sound silencers far more urgently than apartment blocks. I think perhaps some corporates can donate them as a goodwill gesture. Sound Pollution adds to a lot of diseases of the ear, which in the long term is a burden on our country.

  3. July 26, 2007 10:39 am

    I’m sick of the dust and sound pollution where I live….feel like getting away from it all….

  4. July 26, 2007 12:53 pm


    sound baffles are effective in high speed motorable ways with exit and entry points, within the city…i am not sure about the effectiveness. And were the ones you saw in China similar, usually they are 6-8 feet high slabs with no gaps. (I’ve seen them in places where the US Interstates cut thru metropolitan areas). I lived in a 10yr old planned city in florida, there again the noise was there…all the time (and half of it was choppers and aircrafts).

    I think, like all developed nations, we’ll see mass migrations by those who can afford it to the suburbs. you have raised a very valid issue here.

  5. Seran permalink
    July 26, 2007 2:18 pm

    In Bangalore the biggest source of noise is the auto. I’m not sure what these people do to their silencer or i wonder they are manufactured like that to make such a noise. When i’m in a signal near an auto, i feel like getting down from my vehicle and slapping them because of the noise they generate.

    Though auto is the main source of commutation for many in the city, they are too bad. I’am eagerly waiting for the day when Bangalore Metro will be operational so that the usage of auto’s and private vehicles will be reduced thus providing relief to many Bangaloreans suffering with traffic jams and noise/dirt pollution.

  6. July 26, 2007 2:20 pm

    I would like to know how the ads reduce the effectiveness of the baffles. Baffles are made of a reverberation-reducing materials. Why would pasting an ad over it reduce its effectiveness?

    I also agree that it is hospitals that need critical attention with respect to noise pollution. I have always thought that Indian drivers are the worst when it comes to honking the horn. While in other countries honking is considered abusing, in India, you are questioned if you don’t honk!

  7. July 26, 2007 4:27 pm

    bvn, yes the ones I saw in china were bigger and it made me wonder how effective the ones I saw here were. About migration – this has started to happen in mumbai. People are moving to the suburbs…but I think its also because land is cheaper there than in the heart of the city. Many of the rich want bigger houses and .ofcourse in quiet areas.

    Mahendra, I am really not an expert on sound baffles but I am sure the ads will reduce the effectiveness. they are made of some sort of absorbing material and covering it is bound to affect them. I do know that harder and smoother surfaces like glass for example reflect more sound while soft spongy material absorb sound.

  8. July 26, 2007 8:58 pm

    People are very careless about noise pollution. You can see people honking right in front of hospitals, next to the sign board where it is mentioned ‘silence zone’. I was really impressed to see silence zones inside Virgin Trains in UK.You are not allowed to use mobile phones there.

  9. Ramesh Natarajan permalink
    July 27, 2007 7:52 pm


    The sound pollution is primarily due lack of awareness on the after effects due to sound pollution. Many people are used to it, and have never know or thought about how nice it will be without such pollution.

    Using the sound horns unnecessarily, is considered to be an insult in developed countries. I feel sad to see many people blowing horn without any reason besides the fact that most of these people are well educated, living in metros in India.

    Another problem in India is pedestrians crossing in between the roads and not using the pedestrian crossings and while the signal is not Green to cross. The animals in the road further worsens this. Even if the signal is green, many vehicles will not stop thinking the people who are stopping for red signals are fools. I got very much annoyed to see such bad behavior of the people when I was in Chennai last year. I found, I cannot cross the road at all, if i have to cross it properly, because the vehicles are not stopping at any point of time.

    I hope, your posting on this subject and further discussions will spread this awareness. Many thanks for writing about this.

    Best Regards,,
    Ramesh Natarajan, Dubai
    Global Indian

  10. July 30, 2007 11:47 am

    Great post, it reminded me of my project report. I made a small post about it–

    hope somebody tries out the practicality of it.

  11. July 31, 2007 10:46 am

    Someone who’s trying to do something about it: “Horn NOT OK Please – the Quiet India Movement”:

  12. Rekha permalink
    January 21, 2008 9:15 pm

    I am interested in the sound baffles or silencers talked about on your page. I want to know how effective they are against the sound of hjorns esp the air horns used by buses. Could you tell me how effective they are and what is the optimum size of one.Also, is there any specific one which is the best?

  13. February 22, 2008 9:48 pm

    How I feel for the people in the last photo, who have the treat of noise mufflers as well as ads to look at when the wake up in the morning! It’s another assault on the senses, a distraction from serenity and calm thoughts.

    At the same time, I don’t envy the government’s position of having to plan for and control urban growth, with the ensuing noise and air pollution.

    Just seeing the photos and reading about the noise gave me a feeling of agitation. I can imagine how the people feel who live right next to the traffic!

    In my city, the government will pay a low amount of money to the homeowner, and then rip down the house to put down a new road. Along the highways, we have enormour metal walls to buffer the sound and the view of the highway. I’m not sure how well the work, but it still seems awful to live right next to a metal wall.

  14. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    February 23, 2008 5:58 am

    Thanks to Mariacristina for drawing my attention to this post. Another subject after my heart (and this time I mean it in a medical sense). The discussion seems to have petered out just as it was getting interesting. Hope to contribute my tuppenn’orth later in the day.

  15. February 23, 2008 8:30 am

    Thanks Christine and Vivek for reviving this post. It was one of my favorite posts.
    Christine, your sensitiveness to the suffering of others comes through clearly in your comment. You live so far, and so far removed from the situation here, but you can still feel for the plight of others. It’s horrible to live with a constant din next to one’s house (I have experienced it in the past) and it’s sad that our country is rich enough to build buildings and highways, but not rich enough to ensure comfort for people. (I am being sarcastic here!)

    Thanks Vivek. Hope you get an interesting perspective from you.

  16. madhwesh permalink
    July 9, 2008 4:05 pm

    its an apathy how our govt. officials do such disintegrated jobs on our roads. i say disintegration ‘coz i strongly feel that the person in charge of approving ads on those baffles, am sure, would not even have a clue why those barriers existed, in the first place!
    it should have been the responsibility of the person in charge of erecting those baffles, to put up a signage saying that these are sound baffles and are not to be meddled with!

  17. madhwesh permalink
    July 9, 2008 4:15 pm

    meanwhile, can someone let me know ‘if switching off engines at traffic junctions, can really reduce air pollution levels’ ?

    ‘coz i have a myth that greater or an equal amount of pollutants are emitted from the exhaust when the engine is started back than while it is on…

    and i also have this confusion if switching off engines at traffic signals can really help conserve fuel?

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