Noise Making, MMDAs And Bye-Laws
By Sebastian R. Freiku
Noise pollution is excessive or displeasing noise that may disrupt the activity or balance of human or animal life.
Noise health effects are the health consequences of elevated sound levels. Studies have shown that elevated workplace or other noise can cause hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, and sleep disturbance, and that changes in the immune system and birth defects have been attributed to noise exposure.
Although some effects may occur naturally with age, in many developed nations the cumulative impact of noise is sufficient to impair the hearing of a large fraction of the population over the course of a lifetime.
Noise exposure has also been known to induce hypertension and other cardiovascular impacts.
Beyond these effects, elevated noise levels can create stress, increase workplace accident rates, stimulate aggression and other anti-social behaviours. The most significant causes are vehicle and aircraft noise, prolonged exposure to loud music, and industrial noise. Road traffic causes almost 80% of the noise annoyances in many countries.
There may be psychological definitions of noise as well. Firecrackers may upset some animals or noise-traumatised individuals. The most common noise traumatised persons are those exposed to military conflicts, but often, loud groups of people can trigger complaints and other behaviours about noise.
There is no doubt that noise is a public menace and an environmental pollutant as well, and therefore, there is the need to educate the citizenry on their rights and responsibilities in curbing it, if not totally, eradicate noise pollution in Ghana.
In recent times, the issue of excessive noise making has become a thing of concern, especially in built up residential areas.
It is against these effects and nuisances of noise making that local authorities, acting on behalf of the government, have enacted bye-laws to regulate it.
The definition of bye-law, according to the ENCARTA WORLD ENGLISH DISCTIONARY, is “law (secondary law) made by a local authority that applies only in the area that the authority governs.”
The Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act, of 1994 (Act 490) mandates the EPA to prescribe standards and guidelines relating to the pollution of water, air, land, and noise in the country.
Consequently, the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA), like any other Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs), has outlined various bye-laws in the Local Government Bulletin of December 31, 1998, which has duly been approved by the Regional Co-ordinating Council, and operates on the strength of section 79 of the Local Government Act 462 of 1993.
There is, therefore, a legal and legitimate basis for the intervention of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to control and deal with noise pollution.
In fact, there are regulations on noise making, and yet, everywhere one goes, there is so much noise that God cannot speak to us in silence. The KMA also has the power to control noise making, but the bye-law on abatement of noise is as good as it never existed.
This bye-law provides that no person shall play records music in public, and that no proprietor of night club, restaurant, drinking bar or other place of refreshment, shall play any music so loudly as to cause disturbance or nuisance to residents in the area.
It also states that no person conducting a religious service shall play any music or allow any music to be played at the service, so loudly as to cause disturbances.
The bye-law further states that music played in a religious institution must be heard only within the confines of the institution, and that a person conducting a religious service, where music is to be played before 6:00 a.m. or after 12:00 p.m. shall seek permission from KMA, except on public and statutory holidays.
This bye-law is against public preaching or playing of religious audio and video cassettes with messages of evangelism in nature, or for the purpose of propagating a religion at the central business area.
The law also frowns on noisy animals and noisy hawking and noise making within 100 metres of a hospital, clinic, maternity home, or any public library, place of worship, place of public assembly office, or public building.
The penalty for default is a fine of GH¢2.00 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months. If the one is found to be a persistent offender, he will be liable to an additional GH¢1.00.
The question is: how relevant are the bye-laws on noise making? The provisions and penalties of the bye-laws enumerated above, are not only interesting and irrelevant, but also no longer deterrent, and must be must be revised.
It clearly demonstrates the KMA is not in control, so far as the enforcement of bye laws on noise making is concerned.
The noise can be stopped. The bye-laws are simple and workable if the Assembly would work towards achieving a set objective. In this wise, the KMA must make efforts to revise its bye-laws and make them relevant today, and enforce them.
What are honourable assembly members doing to assert their roles in enforcing bye-laws? Parliament should not be burdened with enacting a law on noise making.
While at it, at the local level, the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should create awareness on the harmful effects and the health implications associated with noise pollution.
The EPA is also to work in effective partnership with all stakeholders in ringing change in this wise, and make environmental protection a sustainable development.
The media could focus more on social issues, which include excessive noise making, than on politics and political issues as it pertains currently.
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