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30.09.2009 Regional News

Noise levels in Accra on the increase

By Naa Norley - Ghanaian Chronicle

The capital city is gradually becoming the hub of noise in country, with an ever-increasing level, with the latest trend of noise-making being created by sellers of audio and video compact discs and cassette tapes.

They have adapted the style of mounting loud speakers in pick up trucks and vans, blaring out loud music to sell recorded music compact discs (CDs) and videos, in the face of existing laws that strictly bar noisemaking.

Meanwhile, the city authorities, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), and the police have done little or virtually nothing to bring such culprits to book.

It has thus become the order of the day for anybody to put loud speakers on top of his car, and turn the volume up to irritatingly high levels.

This is because the keepers of the laws are either lax or silent.

Meanwhile, existing bylaws on noisemaking in the local government laws, including section 79 of the Local Government Act, 1993 (Act, 462), frowns on such practices.

The law states among other things “No person shall use any place for the sale of record or other recorded music, unless the place has been inspected, approved and licensed by the Assembly.”

This law appears not to apply to the area in front of the Melcom Shopping Arcade in Accra, which is just a few meters from the headquarters of the AMA.

In this area, individuals have mounted loud speakers to attract people to patronise their CD's and cassettes in total disregard of the existing law.

That notwithstanding, others have turned the pavements into church grounds, using public address systems to preach, causing a loud noise, which is a great nuisance.

Quite intriguing, is the fact that in recent times religious buildings are being sited in residential areas, a typical example being a mosque cited in the middle of houses at Kotobabi (Pig Farm), and a church at Teshie that has been a source of worry to residents of the neighbourhood.

Churches and mosques have also been sited in the middle of communities creating a nuisance for residents around with their loudness. Residents of areas such as La Wireless, Avenor, Fadama, New Town and Nima have not been spared this nuisance from churches and mosques.

A hotelier (name withheld) at Osu told the paper in an interview, “it is pathetic that the AMA bylaws are not biting at all, as a number of activities enshrined in the law are not obeyed, but people are rather causing a nuisance with their activities.”

“It saddens me that most mobile phone service providers have also joined the fray to sell their SIM cards in an open truck at a cheaper price, but if one is not moved by these activities, wait till they get to your neighbourhood,” he said rhetorically.

It is clearly stated in the AMA's bylaw that “When one contravenes any provision of the bylaw he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ¢200,000 or in default to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or to both, and in case of continuing offences, the offender is liable to an additional fine of ¢2,000 in respect of each day on which the offence continues.”

The effects of noise pollution on task performance have been well studied, with noise pollution impairing task performances, increasing errors, and decreasing motivation. Reading attention, problem solving, and the memory are most strongly affected by noise. Noise produces negative after-effects on performance and particularly, in children it appears that the longer the exposure, the greater the damage therefore such acts must not be entertained in residential areas especially densely populated housing areas.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), uninterrupted sleep is a prerequisite for good physiological and mental functioning in healthy persons.

Noise pollution has been a major cause of sleep disturbances. Apart from the various effects on sleep itself, noise pollution during sleep causes increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased pulse amplitude, vasco-constriction, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased body movement.

These effects do not decrease over time. Secondary effects include fatigue, depressed moods and well-being, and decreased performance.

Combinations of noise and vibration have a significant detrimental effect on health, even at low sound pressure levels.

As the population grows, there is increasing exposure to noise pollution, which has profound public health implications, creating the need for action at the local level, as well as improved legislation and management.

Urban noise pollution produces direct and cumulative adverse health effects by degrading residential, social, working, and learning environments, with corresponding real (economic) and intangible (well-being) losses.

WHO has documented seven categories of the adverse health effects of noise pollution on humans.

Hearing damage is related to the duration and intensity of noise exposure, and occurs at levels of 80 decibels or greater, which is equivalent to the noise of heavy truck traffic, with children being more vulnerable than adults.