Governments come and go, but the scourge of noise nuisance continues unabated, even though the adverse health effects of noise are trumpeted at various forums, and complaints by those affected are plentiful. There are so many people who seem to be oblivious to the injurious effects to the general health and wellbeing of victims when perpetrators uncaringly engage in activities that create noise nuisance. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise causes a wide range of health effects, including sleep disturbance; cardiovascular effects; damage to work and school performance; hearing- impairment including tinnitus.
The WHO also avers that noise has negative impacts on cognitive performance. For recall and reading, a reduction of the day and night noise levels by 5 dB(A) within the range of 65–80 dB(A) was shown to improve performance by almost 10 per cent. For attention and memory, a 5 dB(A) reduction in average noise level results in approximately two to three per cent improvement of performance. The Organization surmises that adverse impacts of noise on cognitive performance can lead to a reduction in productivity at work and learning performance at school.
The lack of a sustained campaign against noise nuisance has created a dynamic wherein the noise emanating from various sources has grown to unbearable proportions countrywide.
It would appear that playing music loudly has become part of our national culture. The situation has become worse because of advances in electronic technology, which have helped musical sets to become much more powerful than what they were a couple of decades ago.
Announcements by several Home Affairs Ministers over the years: that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) would adopt a ‘no nonsense’ approach, and the full force of the law would deal with offenders, have all come to naught.
Although the Ministry has, over the years, admitted that it continues to receive numerous complaints from senior citizens, the sick, working parents, students, and several other law-abiding people to the effect that they are being affected by loud, repetitive, and continuous noise emanating from a range of places in the different Police divisions, there is no evidence pointing to any long-term relief for victims.
Reports verifying that were checks made at the locations complained about on specified days and times have re-enforced the validity and justification of the complaints, yet little or no relief is provided by law enforcement agencies, even though, sporadically, relevant Divisional Commanders of the GPF have been provided with the details pertaining to the complaints and have been directed to take appropriate action to ensure that Subsection (1) of Section 174 A of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, as amended by Act No. 1 of 1989, is not breached.
The law states: “No person shall, in any road, street, public place or land or in building or premises, by operating or causing or suffering to be operated any stereo set, jukebox, radio, wireless loudspeaker, gramophone, amplifier, automatic piano or similar instrument of music, or by any other means whatsoever, make or cause or suffer to be made any noise which shall be so loud and so continuous or repetitive as to cause a nuisance to occupants of any premises in the neighbourhood.”
Another aspect of the noise nuisance the Ministry should look at is loud music emanating from privately owned vehicles.
Somehow or the other, it would appear that the operators believe they have the right to play music as loudly as they feel.
The campaign against noise nuisance must be relentless and sustained, or else this scourge would not be stopped, because it seems that some people get a sense of pleasure when they play loud music and disturb others.