In accordance with Part V, Section. 19 (1) (a) of the Environmental Protection Act, Cap. 20:05, Laws of Guyana, “a person shall not undertake an activity that causes or is likely to cause pollution of the environment, unless the person takes all reasonable and practicable measures to prevent or minimise any resulting adverse effect”.
The preceding law covers noise nuisance and all its variables and implications. 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, juke box, radio, wireless loudspeaker, 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 noise nuisance the Ministry should look at is loud music emanating from privately-owned vehicles.
Despite several changes in Government, the scourge of noise nuisance seems to continue unabated, even though the adverse health effects of noise are trumpeted at various forums, and complaints by those affected are plentiful.
Authorities, even Ministers of Health of various administrations, seem to be oblivious to the injurious effects to general health and wellbeing of victims when perpetrators uncaringly engage in activities which create noise nuisance. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), noise causes a wide range of negative health effects, including: sleep disturbance; cardiovascular effects; damage to work and school performance; hearing impairment, including tinnitus.
Additionally, WHO avers that noise has negative impacts on cognitive performance: For recall and reading, a reduction of the day and night noise level by five 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 five dB (A) reduction in average noise level results in approximately two to three per cent improvement of performance. The organisation surmises that adverse impacts of noise on cognitive performance can lead to a reduction in the productivity at work and the learning performance at school.
The lack of a sustained campaign against noise nuisance has created a dynamic where the noise emanating from various sources has grown to unbearable proportions countrywide.
Indisputably, playing music loudly has become part of our national culture. The situation has become worse because of advances in electronic technology, which has helped musical sets to become much more powerful than they were a couple of decades ago. Laws are no deterrent, because there is no sustained enforcement. Announcements by several Ministers of Home Affairs over the years, that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) will adopt a ‘no nonsense’ approach and the full force of the law will deal condignly with offenders, have all come to naught.
The authorities have, over the years, admitted that various relevant bodies continue to receive numerous complaints from senior citizens; the sick, for whom noise exacerbates their health issues; working parents; students and several other law-abiding people, to the effect that they are being seriously 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. 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.
Police have, on specified days and times, re-enforced the validity and justification of the complaints; yet, 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, and some of the worst perpetrators are law-enforcement officers.