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Resolution Awaiting Curb of Aircraft Noise Pollution: India striving to meet international standards

Updated: Sep 24

Hiranmayee Ramesh, Nyayshastram

Introduction

While the aviation sector provides for positive social and economic benefits, the resulting ‘noise’ has been leading to negative externalities for the public, in terms of health hazards that can mobilize a local community. This includes sleep deprivation, hearing impairments, heart diseases, workplace accidents caused by stress and, quite often, amnesia - giving rise to operational restrictions that would constraint and delay airport projects. To tackle this, airport noise regulations, wherein the government or any designated authority controls over such noise produced by the aircraft's, must be efficiently amended and implemented.


Government Regulations

According to the Airports Council International, there are over 17,678 airports all around the globe[i], having a total of over 5000 recognized airlines[ii]. The Air Traffic Organization reports over 2.7 million[iii] airline passengers’ travelling via air regularly. By 2032, this industry has forecasted to have more than 41,000 aeroplanes that would be flying 6.6 billion travellers on a day-to-day schedule[iv]. If the flying population goes on increasing at this rate, adequate security measures for preventing hazards to health and other consequences be taken?

Due to the persistent pressure over the past 30 years, the aircraft is being designed in such a way, to reduce the noise being emitted from them[v]. In order to ensure sustainability, necessary measures that would target the noise impact levels will remain a crucial issue until curbed. The European Union, along with other nations across the globe, has come up with the regulations[vi] to protect from noise-related operations. The whole process was to develop the theme of a ‘Balanced Approach[vii]’, which comprises of four main elements, namely:


(i) To make the aeroplanes quieter by setting noise control standards;

(ii) By managing the area located around the airports sustainably;

(iii) By adapting operational procedures that would reduce the noise impact on the ground, and;

(iv) By way of introducing operating restrictions in the workplace.


Additionally, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)[viii] is continuously working to ensure that their standards, guidance and policies associated with reducing aircraft noise are being met. This also includes work amongst several topics and investigations that fall into the line of emergency. By such a mechanism, ICAO has not only taken a step forward with working on the environmental aspects of airport lands but also, used it for planning, and acceptable practices on airport community engagement. ICAO has developed various tools that would help for the process of collection and analysis of an array of aviation safety data metrics which will allow one to identify the existing risks and also those that will emerge. With aviation safety as its fundamental objective, the organization is continuously pushing with the entire aviation community to improve aviation’s safety while maintaining a high level of efficiency. Further, the duties of ICAO also include monitoring and reporting the performance metrics of the air transports sector. It further audits States’ civil aviation capabilities in the areas of safety and security[ix].


As of now, Indian laws may not be stringent, but as the industry grows, the country’s aviation sector continues to prosper. Under the 2018 regulation,[x] airports are required to develop and demarcate an airport noise zone. We have the Airports Authority of India (Ground Handling Services) Regulations, 2018[xi] Act that governs various activities within the airport premises. However, since the guidelines do not define this properly, airports can interpret the regulation without a standard method as it only stipulates a single noise zone. This is in contrast with most airports around the world, the laws of which identify three zones based on aircraft noise levels. Airports must also take initiatives to continually manage the aircraft noises by following this ICAO balanced approach, managing flight path dispersion and developing noise preferential routes. Moreover, they can collaborate with the government and other community stakeholders to develop such noise insulation programs that would protect local populations. A highly comprehensive noise zone should include a combination of multiple noise contours that would consider all possible realistic worst-case operational scenarios to protect the entire environment.


Conclusion

Noise related measures would oblige air terminal limits to be specific, as well as the aviation framework, to work on the failing impacts. Subsequently, choices on noise measures and the ideal degree of noise assurance must be adjusted against the general limit suggestions. The increased urge to environmental awareness among the growing population, community involvement on noise management has also been rising. Aircraft landing and taking off is said to contribute mainly to the aviation noise. Though individual aircraft have become quieter over the past few years, flight frequencies have never the less, increased the noise level around the airports. Specifically, landing noise is gaining importance and has become the dominant reason for such complaints.


For years to come, as aircraft are becoming significantly silent, the residents’ tolerance to such noises are expected to decrease, implying that airport noise zones defined by today’s limits will probably carry forward tomorrow’s applicability. Potential measures such as restricting how land is used near airports, changing how and where aircraft operate, limiting aircraft operations based on noise levels, lowering the operative hours of aircraft, and providing sound insulation to homes and schools, should be taken by the public as precautions.

[i] Airports council International, https://aci.aero/, last seen on 17.08.20. [ii] International Civil Aviation Organization, https://www.icao.int/Pages/default.aspx, last seen on 17.08.20. [iii] Air traffic by numbers, https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/by_the_numbers/#:~:text=Every%20day%2C%20FAA%20's%20Air, million%20square%20miles%20of%20airspace., last seen on 17.08.20. [iv] ATAG, Aviation Benefits beyond Borders, http://aviationbenefits.org, last seen on 17.08.20. [v] Aircraft noise, https://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/environment/aircraft_noise_en, last seen on 17.08.20. [vi] Regulation (EU), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32014R0598, last seen on 17.08.20. [vii] Supra v (NOTE: Here v is the footnote number where the author has first cited Aircraft noise website). [viii] ICAO Flight Plans, https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/atpubs/fs_html/appendix_a.html, last seen on 19.08.20. [ix] ICAO Data Plans. [x] Government sets noise standards for airports across India, Badri Chatterjee, The Hindustan Times. [xi] Airports Authority of India (Ground Handling Services) Regulations, 2018, https://www.latestlaws.com/bare-acts/central-acts-rules/air-traffic-laws/the-airports-authority-of-india-act-1994/airports-authority-of-india-ground-handling-services-regulations-2018/, last seen on 19.08.20.

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