11.03.2009 Feature Article

Noise-making and the health of society

Noise-making and the health of society
11.03.2009 LISTEN

Every right thinking member of a society needs a form of privacy once in a while. Privacy does not only mean being alone in a room, but also being alone without being lonely in a sound environment. Privacy is a form of human right which no human being can be without. It gives space for one to think considerably about a decision concerning one's life. However, in as much as a sound environment is needed for privacy, the environment in this part of the world does not always make way for privacy to prevail, as noise making is always the order of the day.

Noise is one of the most common activities in the Ghanaian environment; it is the notion of many people that the existence of the rule of democracy enables them to behave freely, forgetting that one's democracy ends where another's begins.

Noise-making is a nuisance more or less an environmental problem, which in a way makes the environment a bit uncomfortable for mankind. Noise is an obligatory part of everyday human life, be it be in the city, town or village one is embraced by noise most of the time. In this case, it is logical to accept some degree of noise in the environment. It is a truism, as the number of the population increases, the level of noise making also increases, however, this does not give room for people to make excessive noise to infringe on people's right and privacy. Though it is against the laws of the land, those meant to enforce this law seem to have gone to sleep, making excessive noise-making seem to be a normal part of life.

Noise-making and funerals
It is a true, some acts of noise-making are done consciously, but the majority is done without negative intent. One of the commonest kinds of noise-making is at funerals. In Ghana funerals are held after the dead has been buried. It is celebrated with the playing of music, mostly from large blaring loudspeakers. In Ghana ones needs a permit when one is holding a funeral ceremony at home, for the playing of loud music.

The police of the local authority are the institutions which usually issue these permits, together with a time limit.

In Accra it is the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), which issues the permit, and also is supposed to enforce the bye-laws on excessive noise-making.

According to one Jeffery Allotey, a student who lives in Madina, a suburb of Accra, he used to live in Tema Community Two, but moved to his present home as a result of excessive noise-making.

According to him, his former place can be best described as a den for wake-keepings, no week passes by without a wake-keeping. He said during these periods all that he gets is sleeplessness and restlessness, making him very tired every morning. According to him, the frequent wake-keeping does not mean people die frequently in that neighbourhood, but because the place is known and considered by many as a good place to hold wake-keepings.

Another pathetic aspect of noise-making are the so-called street jams, people have made it a point to celebrate any occasion that comes along, by playing music on the streets just like wake-keepings are held in the middle of a neighbourhood, without the consent of the AMA, or even informing the people in the neighbourhood.

Music vendors and noise-making
When it comes to music vendors i.e., compact disc /cassette sellers, they can easily be described as the worst culprits. The lack of employment in the country has compelled many of the youth to turn the selling of audio and video compact discs (CDs). They have developed a marketing strategy where they mount sound systems together with loud speakers on a vehicle and play the music very loudly to attract customers.

Meanwhile, existing AMA bye-laws on noise-making in the local government law, including section 79 of the Local Government Act, 1993 (Act, 462), glowers on such practices. The law states among other things, “no person shall use any place for sale of record or other recorded music, unless the place has been inspected, approved licensed by the Assembly.” Despite the fact that it is against the bye-laws, its prevalence has made it seem a normal thing in society.

Occupational noise is another source of noise-making. It is very surprising to see someone build an industry right in the middle of a neigbourhood, creating noise everyday, and one such common example are block-making factories. Operators of cereal and vegetable milling machines are also a den of noise, but due to its importance is tolerated by most people.

Effects of noise on Health
In as much one cannot live without some noise, it is equally important to learn to avoid noise that has the tendency of ruining the human health status. According to website, noise pollution can take a severe toll on human health in the long term. These effects will not become apparent immediately, but there could be repercussions later on. The following is a list of the kinds of effects noise pollution has on human health, after continuous exposure for months, and even years:-

The most immediate effect is a deterioration of mental health. As an example, people living too close to airports will probably be quite jumpy. Continuous noise can create panic episodes in a person, and can even increase frustration levels. Also, noise pollution is a big deterrent in focusing the mind to a particular task. Over time, the mind may just lose its capacity to concentrate on things.

Another immediate effect of noise pollution is a deterioration of the ability to hear things clearly. Even on a short-term basis, noise pollution can cause temporary deafness. But, if the noise pollution continues for a long period of time, there's a danger that the person might go stone deaf.

Noise pollution also takes a toll on the heart. It is observed that the rate at which heart pumps blood increases when there is a constant stimulus of noise pollution. This could lead to side-effects like elevated heartbeat frequencies, palpitations, breathlessness and the like, which may even culminate in seizures. Noise pollution can cause dilation in the pupils of the eye, which could interfere in ocular health in the later stages of life.

It is clearly stated in the AMA's bye-laws: “When one contravenes any provision of the bye-law he commits an offence, and is liable on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding GH¢20, or in default to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or to both, and in case of a continuing offences the offender is liable to an additional fine of GH20p in respect of each day on which the offence continues”.

However, the bye-law is not even implemented for people to be used as examples to prevent others from repeating the same mistake. The attitude of the AMA can imply that either the law is taken for granted, or it is forgotten, and that needs a sort of reminder.

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