It is not in dispute that Accra is noisy. What is worrying is that noise pollution has gone beyond cities. At the recent Eco-Conscious Citizens Stakeholders Meeting, a participant shared on how noise pollution had reached his home town with the complicity of the authorities.
Another participant shared a case study on a Church that has been torturing residents in Pokuase for years with noise pollution. The said Church has built without an environmental permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contrary to section 1, sub sections 1 and 2 of the Environmental Assessment Regulations 1999 (LI 1652).
Retired surgeon and distinguished writer and poet Prof Lade Wosornu confirmed at the meeting that noise can kill. He has warned that “Noise is more than an annoyance. Noise is a hazard to public health... Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere. We underestimate to our collective peril the harmful effects of noise, toxic noise and maddening noise.”
Noise pollution causes Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), and can also cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances, and stress. Continuous exposure to noise pollution causes an increase in cholesterol levels and can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Studies have associated exposure to excessive noise with hypertension, neurosis and nervous breakdowns.
Why then are the relevant authorities not doing much to protect our health from noise pollution? For starters, loudspeakers should not be allowed in residential areas especially in churches, drinking bars and event centres that are not sound proof.
Many look back with nostalgia at the Covid Restriction days, when one could enjoy peace and quiet and not be bombarded with noise pollution from churches, drinking spots and social events ; or the Homowo ban on Noise Making.
Why can't we have peace all year round? If the likes of Hon. Henry Quartey were in charge of enforcing noise laws, there would no doubt be sanity. The Chief of Amamoma in Cape Coast is reported to be clearing pavements along roads to ensure safety of road users in his township. This is good news. Perhaps other chiefs will follow suit, and also help enforce laws on noise pollution.
It should perhaps be a requirement that at all religious services and social events a named person measures sound levels to ensure that the sound produced is within the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) permissible levels.
In Ghana, the permissible ambient noise as set by the EPA for residential areas requires that Noise levels should not be above 55 decibels during the day and 48 decibels at night.
Technology has advanced such that perfectly reliable sound meters can be downloaded free of charge from the internet to mobile phones. It should be mandatory that noise makers measure their sound levels so they do not damage the health of neighbours. They should be prosecuted when they fail to do this and their sound levels are above the permitted levels. They have absolutely no right to damage our health.
Religious organisations should set a good example and not take the lead in causing noise pollution. There is too much noise making masquerading as spirituality. The Bible is clear that it is by their fruit that they will be known as Believers. It is not by their shouting. Believers should be more discerning and read the Bible. They will find out that there are many false prophets and that not everyone who sets up a Church and causes noise pollution is a Believer. They should follow sound doctrine.
Eco-Conscious Citizens are asking Parliament to pass laws to:
1) Ban the use of loudspeakers in and around residential and mixed residential areas, unless they are used in soundproofed buildings approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
2) Make it mandatory for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to have Noise Teams who can be called outside normal working hours to deal with noise pollution.
3) Make it mandatory for the Police to have training on Noise Pollution and relevant laws and bye-laws, including the Criminal Offences Act 1960, specifically Sections 72, 287 & 296 so they understand that Noise Pollution is a criminal offence which must be dealt with when Citizens make a complaint, and not dismissed as a matter for the MMDAs or the Environmental Protection Agency.
4) Introduce on the spot fines to deal with Noise Pollution.
The authorities should enforce the laws and bye-laws on noise making. Enforcement of laws on noise pollution is the most effective way of educating all and sundry that noise pollution damages our health and will not be tolerated.
BY Awula Serwah
Eco-Conscious Citizens founder/co-ordinator