The declaration that hefty fines will be imposed upon persons committing the offence of noise nuisance shows that long-awaited action is finally being taken.
It is welcome news that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are holding accountable violators who continue to break the law.
For years, there has been a plethora of complaints from persons in various parts of the country pertaining to noise nuisance. In every instance, the frustration of those affected was very evident, and one common gripe was the perceived lack of action by the authorities to fully address the situation. The sources of the audio bombardment include what seem ubiquitous limes and other entertainment shows, neighbours, bars, and vehicles.
In every scenario, people are subjected to brutal and sustained assaults by high- decibel sounds which often last through the night. The harsh reality is that everyone within the affected zone – including children, the elderly and the sick – is rendered helpless and deprived of sleep. That in itself brings or exacerbates related health consequences, as people feel a profound sense of lassitude, since their energy has been sapped.
Some complaints detailed the horrible effects, especially on babies. A toll is eventually taken, and, in turn, productivity and studies are affected for those who work and attend institutions of learning respectively. There have been numerous calls over time for law enforcement to curb this menace.
The GPF itself had admitted that statistics have over time shown an increase in complaints of noise nuisance, and prosecutions are low. This came on the heels of concerns raised by residents who continue to report problems of noise nuisance in their areas.
Of course, some reports are responded to and action is taken, but clearly it does not present a deterrent to those who continue to make others uncomfortable. It begs the question whether they really understand the impact noise has on people. Further, this may be an impetus for the authorities to relook at not just the criteria for granting permission for barbecues and entertainment shows, but for the proximity of residents to be taken as a primary consideration.
Barring national events, weddings and other necessary, infrequent events to some extent, the well-being of people must be foremost. It is understood that there is a requirement for the Police, as one of the approving authorities, to get the consent of residents before granting approval for events in question. This is clearly an area in which the public can be advised on whether it is being done in a sustained and thorough manner.
The growing phenomenon of parked vehicles belting loud music is also having the same effect. Similarly, what occurs in some minibuses needs no explanation.
For the schoolchildren, this not only poses a health issue, but has a profound influence on their minds and actions. Useful research would be to explore the correlation between the exposure to this type of music and violence and other unsavoury actions in schools by some students. In many ways, this can be deemed as a form of mind-conditioning of the younger ones, and it can have serious social consequences. It may also be useful to explore if there is a correlation between this and poor academic grades.
While the findings of the research, if conducted, would be extremely useful, there first has to be a firmer acceptance by the authorities of the serious problem and related consequences of loud music, which is a form of pollution. There is no doubt that the Police are challenged for resources if their priority is to be combating crime. That said, there has to be a commitment to find a way to make noise nuisance a priority, thereby paving the way for it to be dealt with in a sustained manner.