ADDRESSING a one-day training seminar for 49 police ranks on Noise Management, convened by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Minister of National Security Khemraj Ramjattan opined that “noise pollution can lead to all sorts of social ills.” He further stated that persons can be prosecuted under the Environmental Protection Act and Noise Management Regulations; he even went as far as advocating harsh penalties for those found guilty.
This signals government’s intention to finally crack down on a problem that has become part of the plethora of social ills, though not in the highest order of the most prominent ones.
For a precise and clear understanding of noise nuisance, one should perhaps begin with an understanding as to the meaning of “noise.” This is defined as “unwanted sound,’’ but is seen as morphing into becoming a noise nuisance when it begins to increase its amount of sound that in the process causes discomfort that affects one’s life in a significant manner. This is beyond more than simple annoyance, with potential health implications in the process.
An example of the kinds of noise that amply fits into this category includes those that are caused from industrial buildings; house and car alarms that sound for long periods; the playing of car stereos; revving of engines; loud music for lengthy periods; and drilling and hammering.
All these are known to occur in Guyana, particularly given the pervasive socio-cultural changes in the last two decades.
Those of a mature age will remember when for example, loud speech was swiftly reprimanded, especially when it emanated from the very young. And a reminder not to be too noisy because there were persons living in the apartment below was all too common in by-gone years.
There were rpm record players and Juke boxes that were the suppliers of music at neighbourhood birthday parties and dances. But these music systems were played at reasonable levels, with the music coming to an end at the stipulated hour as permitted by law; and there was always a police patrol to ensure compliance.
In the cases of a neighbourhood death, there were constant reminders within households to either play the radio at very low sound, or keep it off. It was indeed an era when citizens exercised a natural consideration for each other; and when good camaraderie and reasonableness existed in communities and among neighbourhoods.
Nowadays, it would seem that once there is a written permit for any socio-cultural event at which there will be music–whether weddings, bar-b-ques, birthdays, community events, in any cultural form–this becomes a given for ear- deafening decibel sounds that are known to rattle window panes; cause ear discomfort; reverberations to the chest, putting at risk particularly those with cardiac challenges. And these are known occurrences within neighbourhoods; those responsible do not take into consideration that despite lawful permission, they still have a moral obligation to ensure that their music is played at moderate levels. This should be a reminder also for the owners of music carts that often play their music at very disturbing levels; especially when traversing residential areas and advertising for sale.
The same applies to motor cycles very late at nights and early in the mornings, particularly at week-ends, that race through the quiet morning at unreasonable noise levels through neighbourhoods. Even the drivers of motor vehicles are guilty of playing their music systems at levels that often cause many a sleeping citizen to startle– even babies, too.
And this has not taken into consideration the many days or months of incessant noise coming from construction sites that makes daily life a living nightmare for those residing in proximity.
Indeed, there is a noise nuisance in Guyana, and it is a national problem that has been perennial; it causes much discomfort to citizens, particularly the aged and the very infirm, many of whom have to re-locate temporarily to escape the often thunderous boom from musical boom boxes, from hours/days of celebratory events.
The fact of a reported 417 cases in 2017 and more than 300 for the current year, underlines its endemic nature which must finally be confronted by the law. It was good that those police officers were taken on a nocturnal exercise as part of their training that provided a practical understanding of what such a problem is. It, together with the law, must therefore be their guide, as they pursue those guilty of such an unfair behaviour.