And it is not as if the noise is only emanating from places of entertainment; there are private residences, public and private transportation, churches, mandirs, mosques and yes, even the police and government itself, for the harassed citizen to contend with. A church in Betsy Ground, East Canje, for example, has been one source of distress for those living in the vicinity, and one correspondent asked rhetorically why a small building of dimensions measuring, say, 20 ft x 25 ft needed a public address system and a “big array of drum sets.” It is by no means the only religious offender, however; the assumption among segments of various faiths nowadays appears to be that God, in whatever form he is worshipped, appreciates volume above all else. The second assumption is that since the noise pollution in question is an expression of faith, then the local residents have no right to complain.
But the most egregious offenders of course are the so-called night-spots, and last month one of the beleaguered residents of Hopetown described their experience with places of entertainment in the area: “the earth trembles; houses shake; windows rattle; the thunderous bass disrupts the normal heart rates of the elderly and feeble; and children and adults in the vicinity are unable to sleep.” The problem in this instance was that the Fort Wellington police would not act, although in a subsequent letter the writer reported that the situation had improved, with the police taking some action although there was still one club which remained in breach of the law.
In fact, the failure of police to respond to noise nuisance complaints is a recurring theme. Towards the end of last year a correspondent living in the city wrote that the Alberttown police would not come to a neighbour who was disrupting the peace of the neighbourhood.
And this is the essence of the problem: the police will not enforce the law which is why there is such an epidemic of noise.It is true, of course, that all kinds of laws on the statute books are not enforced currently, but in this instance there is another factor at work as well accounting for police dereliction. Quite simply, the police themselves do not perceive a problem where loud noise is concerned.
The point was illustrated last year by a correspondent who lives next to the St Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, which, as everyone knows,is situated opposite the Police Sports Ground. The proximity to the hospital, however, did not give the police who were holding their events at the ground even a moment’s pause for thought, and their sound system continued blaring, even in the presence of the Commissioner. Another writer to the newspapers told of loud music being played in front of a police station, and nothing being done about it.
Members of the force themselves have been acculturated in a high decibel environment, and at a personal level, therefore, that is what they accept as the norm. As a consequence, they pay little attention to residents with very real complaints about high noise levels. Two years ago the Minister of Home Affairs said in Parliament that the noise nuisance laws were being continually enforced, and he cited the numbers of those who had been charged. While his figures were undoubtedly accurate, they are no evidence that there has been any abatement in the noise levels nationwide. There is an epidemic of noise in this country which affects every department of life, and scattered arrests are not going to have much impact – and neither will publishing the names of offenders, which has also been tried.
There is an additional problem; as mentioned above, the government itself is not without blemish in this regard. They hold the Main Big Lime next to a residential area, and any trade fair and the like in Sophia, is accompanied by the inevitable sound system blasting the residents of Lamaha Gardens out of their homes for hours on end. There was also a complaint in the letter columns from a resident of Prashad Nagar about a PNC sound system on one occasion. It is not as if the police can charge the Minister of Commerce, say, for noise nuisance, and as such they will hardly be inspired to charge the ordinary citizen either, unless there is some campaign on in the public transportation system, for example. In the first instance, therefore, the government has to set an example to the rest of the population, and of course it goes without saying that so must the police.
The government also has to do something else which it has never attempted: it has to mount a serious education campaign which encompasses children as well as adults explaining the health dangers of the loud noise to which we are continually exposed.The offensive against cigarettes is the model, and it seems the administration has had some success in that department, so why can’t they go on a crusade to save the nation’s hearing? They should also not omit to elaborate on how noise pollution aggravates other health conditions, particularly among the elderly and children.
This has become a very selfish society, so appeals to the need to show respect for one’s neighbours are likely to fall on deaf ears. In the end, as said above, respect for one’s neighbours and area residents will only come if the law is systematically, and not just “continually,” enforced.