ADDRESSING THE NOISE NUISANCE
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 GPF AND EPA SIGN AGREEMENT

OVER the years, the Guyana Consumers Association has been lobbying the police to take action on noise nuisance.  For example, an area of continuing concern is the Stabroek Market Square and the plethora of minibuses nearby with their distressingly loud music.  Recently, however, when the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed an agreement to collaborate in the field of training and the enforcement of noise management regulations, the consumer community, and, indeed, the public as a whole, felt that a new era of seriously tackling the noise nuisance had arrived.

In addition to the common law remedies, Guyana has an adequate corpus of laws protecting against noise nuisance with the 1976 Environmental Protection Act and its further regulations of 2000.  The police, however, never comprehensively enforced the law, and this gave the impression that the law had fallen into desuetude and noise makers felt they could continue in their ways unhampered, and this is the fundamental cause why the noise nuisance persists.

The law defines noise as “unwanted sound which may cause or tend to cause an adverse psychological effect on human beings and includes vibration”.  The same legislation goes on to define noise nuisance /noise disturbance as “any unwanted sound including vibration that annoys, disturbs, perturbs normal persons with reasonable sensitivities, or any unwanted sound which reasonably may be perceived to injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of any humans or animals or ignores movable or immovable property”.

Noise is measured by decibels, usually abbreviated as “dB”.  A decibel is a unit of sound pressure level or intensity of sound.  During the day, if decibels are over 75 dB, it is regarded as noise. At night, over 70 dB is likewise so regarded.   These figures are arrived at because over 80 dB begins to impair the hearing and health of a human being.  Noise is classified into four types: continuous noise,  intermittent noise,  impulsive noise,  and low-frequency noise.

Many members of the public are unaware that there has been scientific analysis of noise and feel that if they are warned or charged by the police for noise nuisance, it is a subjective decision of the police.  It is this assumption by many offenders which causes them to resist the Police warnings or orders and repeat their offence.  A sustained effort has to be made by the police and other authorities to educate the public on the various facets of noise.  Noise not merely causes discomfort to humans and animals;  it could seriously damage the health and wellbeing of both humans and animals.  It causes sleep disturbance, cardiovascular problems, damage to work and school performance, impairment of hearing and even loss of memory.  The old, sick, working parents, those who work on shifts, have all suffered from loud music from jukeboxes, parties, restaurants, nightclubs, minibuses and even noise from building construction work.

Pets like dogs and cats have a much more delicate and sensitive hearing mechanism than humans, and they can hear sounds which humans cannot hear.  This results in noise having a much more devastating impact on these animals.  Some years ago, for instance, when squibs were being exploded at New Year and Diwali, dogs belonging to hotel guests at a large hotel in Georgetown became maddened with the excruciating pain the noise caused them and jumped out of the windows, smashing the glass and injuring themselves. On those same occasions, dogs and other animals belonging to private persons dashed out into the street and at least one was reported killed by oncoming traffic, while others were lost and never found again by their owners.

As we have indicated above, the main complaint we have had for the cause of this epidemic of noise nuisance is the dilatoriness of the police in warning or taking action against persons and institutions which infringe the law.   The Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of police should therefore make noise control one of the priorities of police work.

Other measures could be taken against the noise nuisance.  Education: Some training at the Teachers Training Colleges should be offered on Noise and Noise Control. Every week, a few hours of noise and noise control should be part of the teaching curriculum in the schools.    Or when licensing persons, businesses or institutions that may become possible generators of noise and become nuisances, licensing authorities should distribute educational material on noise nuisance to them.  The media could also be enlisted to assist in campaigns against noise nuisance.  With sustained effort,  noise could be brought under control, improving the quality of life of the community.

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