Sumaira Abdulali

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Sumaira Abdulali was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
It is common knowledge in Mumbai, and other rapidly urbanizing cities in India, that noise is a necessary by-product of urbanization which people have to live with. However, with determination over the last five years, Sumaira and Awaaz Foundation, have managed to make authorities and of civil society aware of noise pollution as an environmental hazard. Significantly, she has evoked policy discussions to implement noise regulations for urban planning in Mumbai.

When Sumaira realized that sporadic approaches issuing noise violations or complaints would not produce lasting change, she systemized her approach. She developed a consistent strategy to identify, define and review the problem of noise. Sumaira researches the situation by collecting measurable data on noise levels and related issues and is the first person in India to demand noise mapping of Mumbai as a means of scientific data collection. She has conducted a proof of concept in a few communities and her findings are available to the public. These findings are then used to activate civic, legal, and administrative bodies to enforce laws and be accountable in relation to sound. Significantly, she is creating an environment where noise pollution is a priority among the citizenry and instigating them to act as monitors.

Using a base of volunteers, Awaaz Foundation is creating an informed citizenry to address the problem. This approach is a low-cost yet efficient model to monitor and enforce noise regulation. Furthermore, it has ensured that the movement will spread to other cities where noise pollution is a growing menace—beyond Awaaz Foundation and Sumaira.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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