‘Awaaz Foundation’, founded by Sumaira Abdul Ali in 2003 has been working on environmental issues such as noise pollution, illegal sand mining, mining in bio diverse forests, marine pollution and oil spills, eco friendly festivals, protection of trees and on civic issues such as laws on tobacco sale to children.
Sumaira convened an NGO movement for protection of public-interest activists, ‘Movement against Intimidation, Threat and Revenge against Activists’ (MITRA).
Noise Pollution: Awaaz Foundation’s Noise Pollution campaign turned into a public Movement with overwhelming public support in Mumbai and is gradually spreading to other parts of the country.
Awaaz Foundation has
- Organized volunteers, offered support, legal advice and education to people suffering from excessive environmental noise.
- Has independently monitored noise levels of loudspeakers, construction equipment, traffic and firecrackers and interacted with the Authorities to ensure their support and co operation.
- Due to pressure, the Mumbai Police set up an administrative system and dedicated number to tackle noise complaints from citizens.
- Conducted educational programs and publications for schools, colleges, citizens groups and authorities empowered to implement the laws are conducted in collaboration with other NGOs and citizens’ groups; the programs were so successful that the State Government has undertaken similar programs in all municipal schools throughout Maharashtra State since 2010.
- Periodic tests of noise levels from firecrackers are undertaken jointly with the Mumbai Police and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and were conducted in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010;
- The first ‘No Horn Day’ in the country along with the Mumbai Traffic Police in April 2008; and measurement of noise and air pollution along with MPCB at the ‘Car Free Day’ in February 2010.
- Noise measurements during festival seasons and various other events throughout the year are undertaken since 2003. Based on primary data generated by Awaaz Foundation, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) set up a ‘National Noise Monitoring Network’ in 7 cities across the country.
Sand mining: Awaaz Foundation has opposed illegal sand mining in Maharashtra through advocacy and legal interventions which have compelled policy change for the entire State of Maharashtra to tighten and implement laws against sand mining in environmentally sensitive areas.
- Awaaz Foundation has consistently monitored various sites in Raigad, Thane and Navi Mumbai for violations and use of illegal suction pumps.
- Awaaz Foundation has advocated experimental and/or commercial building and infrastructure projects using alternate technologies without natural sand and/or recycled sand extracted from debris (another major environmental hazard).
Licensing of Sand barges:
Sand barges, operating from the coast of Raigad through Mumbai Harbour into Mumbai and Navi Mumbai were operating without any licenses or checks until 2010. Awaaz Foundation’s representations to Union and State Home and Environment Ministers regarding the environmental, safety and security hazards of unregulated barges entering Mumbai resulted in grounding of such barges until a system is put into place and subsequent policy changes.
Mining in bio-diverse forests: Awaaz Foundation has worked to support and strengthen local opposition to open-cast mining in the bio-diverse wildlife corridor of Sawantwadi-Dodamarg in Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra where officially recorded tigers and leopards thrive alongside myriad indigenous flora and fauna and which is a catchment area for neighbouring Goa and for numerous villages supporting traditional agrarian livelihoods.
Awaaz Foundation organized representations of 22 villages through legal and advocacy programs to ensure public scrutiny of their demand for ‘Environmentally Sensitive Area’ (ESA) Status, which will ensure no activity which destroys the sensitive nature of this bio diversity hotspot, including mining.
Protection of Trees: Public Interest Litigation filed by Awaaz Foundation for better functioning of Mumbai’s Tree Authority has resulted in Tree Rules being notified for the first time for urban areas of Maharashtra State and several administrative improvements in the Tree Authority of Mumbai.
Eco-friendly festivals: Apart from measuring noise during festival seasons for many years, Awaaz Foundation also tested colours used for festivals such as ‘Holi’ and Ganpati. Air pollution and heavy metal content of firecrackers was also tested. Several samples were found to contain toxic heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead besides other air pollutants. The results were sent to the Government and a request to notify standards for festival colours is pending.
Tobacco: Sumaira filed public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court and succeeded in compelling the Union Government to notify laws banning tobacco sale close to educational institutions.[box]
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Mumbai – 400 050
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