Noise as modern epidemic (2)
Continued from yesterday
NOISE from social activities is becoming unbearable and is mostly concentrated at weekends.
Popular venues for these events include religions premises, houses of celebrants or on popular streets (Primary and Secondary School grounds) Substantial level of environmental noise is generated at such social gatherings.
In fact, the growing trend is the blockage of streets for burial outings.
In all, high sounding musical instruments—guitars, drums, trumpets and saxophones with high-wattage loudspeakers, are deployed to ensure maximum coverage of the environment, as the wider the noise spreads and the more environmental impact of the music, the more enhanced the celebrants’ ego.
Complaint from any quarters in the community is regarded as a mark of envy and antagonism indeed as proof of ill-will in the African culture.
Electric energy occupies the top grade in energy hierarchy as it is in innumerable use in homes, industries, agriculture and for transportation purpose. Nigeria’s power situation is very poor because of erratic power supply.
There is an upsurge in the use of electricity generating plants with its attendant noise pollution on the environment and human health. Most workplaces and homes use generating plants 24 hours as an alternative means of power supply.
Nearly all the sources of noises ranging from commercial sources to domestic sources constitute legitimate human activities. The right to associate, to freedom of worship, to earn a living, among others; in respect of individuals is guaranteed, not only in the country’s constitution; but also in international charters.
All these activities are carried out or performed by citizens of other nations including the more developed countries of the world where noise pollution is minimal. It will be difficult to proscribe or legislate against any of these activities.
Corrective efforts should be put in place to moderate them in a way that minimum noise is generated. Actually, the problem is not so much with the activities that generate the noise, but with the ways the activities are carried out.
For instance, it is generally presumed that the louder the speakers mounted on the roof of a church ring out during worship, the greater the awareness that is created in the neighbourhood for the sake of residents, new ones in particular, or passers-by.
This would seem to contradict the admonition of the Lord Christ (Mathew 8: 5-8) when in teaching His followers how to pray, He said: …enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy father which is in secret…
Noise seems to have a negative effect on performance. It appears that the longer the exposure, the greater the effect. Children from noisy areas have been found to have heightened sympathetic arousal indicated by increased levels of stress related hormones.
The hearing limit of noise in man is about 140 dB. Human ears feel fatigued if exposed to over 80 dB for more than half an hour. It causes temporary deafness if the noise level is 100dB.
It is painful at 140dB. For instance, China, until the third century BC of her existence, used noise for torturing instead of hanging men for dangerous crimes.
Recently, studies concluded that short exposures to noise (in excess of about 100dB) leads to adverse effects on foetus, headache and dizziness, dilatoriness in intestines, stomach problems and effects on eye sights to the extent that these at times become incurable.
Even some species of birds are known to avoid migrating to places where noise level is above 100 dB.
Looking at the serious and disastrous effects of noise pollution on human life, it should go without saying that it is essential to take preventive and protective measures. There is no doubt that the Nigerian government has taken bold steps to curtail noise especially in the cities. And Lagos should stand out for mention.
As regards the statutory control of noise, it is surprising that there exists no law under the Nigerian legal system exclusively, dealing with the problem of noise or its control. Nigeria does not have specific legislations on noise pollution as is the case in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
The relevant policies on noise pollution are: The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act of 2007 is the major law on noise pollution in Nigeria.
In saner climes, there are laws against noise pollution. Noise Pollution is a major problem in India especially during festivals of Diwali, Navaratri and Ganpati. The government of India has regulations against fire crackers and loudspeakers. Several European countries such as Netherlands, France, Spain and Denmark emulated the USA noise control law.
The government should put in place regulatory agency that will assist in the measurement, control and enforcement of laws to achieve a desired goal.
We need to take advantage of the opportunities presented to man by technological advancement in the area of measurement and control of noise through the use of gadgets like insulator and sound proofing to doors, walls, ceilings, using ear protection and zoning urban area to maintain a separation between residential area and zones of excessive noise.
There is need for public enlightenment, education and sensitisation on the hazards, dangers and human health problems associated with noise pollution.
Factory owners should be mandated to use sound proof devices. Residents should be mindful of their obligations to their neighbour for peaceful coexistence in the community. Urban designers should adhere strictly to master plans; they should monitor and control development to follow the already approved land use for any sector of the urban land.
• Oni is a PhD student of University of Lagos. He can be reached on 08065848504 or firstname.lastname@example.org