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The noise, the ban and the law that never works

Once again, another episode of the annual ban on drumming and noise making is here, and the Ga Traditional Council (GTC) would attempt to achieve in a month, the lawful mandate that the authorities at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have failed to fulfill for many years!

For the records, the ban on drumming and noise making is not the preserve of the people of Accra.
Infact, some Akans also practice same, of course, not with all the drama and stand offs. Why? I don’t know.
But from Monday May 14 to Thursday June 14, 2018, a greater portion of the City of Accra, will be stripped off its noisy and chaotic apparel and clothed in a serene alternative of peace and calm.
Assuredly, and sadly so, after the ban is lifted, Accra will regain its noisy self.
This phenomenon is not the first of its kind, and would definitely not be the last in this country called Ghana.
In the meantime, the challenges and long term effects that this noise pollution affords, cannot be calculated.
Yes, the ban will take full effect, as has been the yearly ritual preceding the Homowo celebrations of the Gas.
But, I can clearly envisage some recalcitrant churches and noisemakers flatly disobeying the Ga traditional council’s order and blasting their sound as usual.
I also envisage the task force of the GTC, replying in equal measure by seizing equipment and sometimes, attempting to assault or beating up those that resist.
Then, I can also envisage those who would be tempted or inspired to impersonate the task force of the Ga traditional council.
I see the police in there somewhere guarding some churches (where supposed big men or women fellowship), in full regalia while the ‘joyful noise’ goes on.
Or tagging along with the GTC to enforce its order. And then, I see the EPA and the City authority enjoying the drama, while the people watch in awe wondering when the chaos will cease and whether that is what they pay salaries for.
Earlier on April 20, Nii Dodoo Nsaki, Acting President of the GTC said at a press conference that “a monitoring team has been put in place with special identity cards to ensure the compliance of the ban with the support of the Police, Asafoatsemei (Warriors / soldiers) and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly special taskforce”.
He added that the “GTC has reached an understanding with the Orthodox churches and they had expressed their cooperation during the ban”.
Sincerely, the issue of noise pollution has become of grave concern, most especially, in residential areas in the country, where churches, pubs and recreational centers are speedily springing up with or without permits from their respective local authorities.
In addition, there are also private individuals who abuse the law during funerals and other celebrations with no regard for the law.
Consider also, the itinerant music sellers who roam the streets blending their noise with that of the irritating horns of vehicles and motorbikes.
A completely appalling situation if you ask me. But who cares?
There is no denying the fact that the laws on the permissible ambient noise decibels are as clear as the light of day.
Within the frame work of these laws, the EPA has defined guidelines to aid its enforcement of the laws.
These regulations are meant to address the noise levels, ranging from residential and commercial to industrial areas as well as the prudent management of the environment.
The EPA has the staff, the legal authority to act, the sound level meters (or do they not?) and the goodwill of the people, so what’s holding them from delivering?
For example the permitted noise levels in residential areas is 55 decibels (db) during the day and 48 db at night.
Those that find themselves close to or within educational and health facilities are to work with 55 db during the day and 50 db at night, while the noise level for areas with commercial or light industrial activities was registered 60 db and 55 db during the day and night respectively.
The prevailing guidelines also permit 65 db noise levels during the day and 60 db during the night for light industrial areas and places of entertainment and public assembly such as mosques and churches.
Also, commercial areas, are allowed 70 db during the day and 65 db at night, while the noise level for heavy industrial areas has been pegged at 70 db during the day and night. But do they comply?
Does the EPA check to ensure strict adherence? At least, God gave us ears, since we do not have the required equipment to measure decibels.
So now, let your ears take a wild guess and revert!
The adverse effect of noise pollution on humans and animals is very disturbing.Noise has been associated with important cardiovascular health problems, particularly hypertension.
Hypertension is dangerous and has killed many.  Experts say noise levels of 50 db at night may also increase the risk of myocardial infarction by chronically elevating cortisol production.
What’s the danger here? A medical doctor can explain further how this works in boosting your stress levels and hypertensive patterns.
Another research commissioned by an insulation manufacturer, Rockwool, states that in the UK, one third, comprising 33% of victims of domestic disturbances claim loud parties have left them unable to sleep or have made them stressed in the last two years.
Around one in eleven, representing 9% of those affected by domestic disturbances claims it has left them continually disturbed and stressed.
More than 1.8 million people claim noisy neighbours have made their life a misery and they cannot enjoy their own homes.
If this is the case in the UK, where the laws apply with just a handful of miscreants, then I shudder to imagine what we are enduring in this part of the globe where the enforcement of laws have gone on a very long vacation!
It may interest you to note that noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent shift in pure-tone thresholds, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss.
The severity of a threshold shift is dependent on duration and severity of noise exposure.
Unfortunately, these days, both adults and children (including infants), are exposed to this danger and I continue to imagine what the future would look like with almost all the population continuously feeling stressed, half deaf and restless because someone failed to perform his or her duty by law and nobody raised an eye-brow.
Now, flip the coin and measure the economic shortfalls that this whole din den brings us.
Can we work efficiently and effectively if we have no peace of mind? Can children and students excel in their academic endeavours if they are confronted daily with incessant noise pollution? The list of worries is endless. Think about it!
Now, as a matter of fact, it is not the GTC’s business to do the EPA’s job, for which she is paid monthly.
However, a healthy collaboration is in order to nib this canker in the bud.
The EPA must have an enforcement plan that actually works.
These must include the balance between costs and benefits associated with setting standards at particular noise levels and enforcing same, the nature of the existing or projected noise problems in any particular area, the local aspirations and the means available to control environmental noise.
I see the traditional authority playing a pivotal role, as opposed to the current back bench approach.
On the part of the EPA, there is no need to reinvent the wheel because the GTC has proven that noise pollution can be controlled.
Sincerely, at this point, we can’t all pretend that all is well. Something must be done, and it must be done fast.
And may the gods that aid the GTC year-on-year to keep the city silent for a month help us to realize how helpful the good sides of the annual ritual can be expanded to help all of us.
That’s my dream and I hope we all share in it.
By Johnnie Hughes!
 The writer is the award-winning Host of #CommunityConnect on 3fm 92.7 and TV3 NewDay
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