Curbing Noise Pollution In Nigeria

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Noise is hazardous to human health. It is an enemy of the environment as it pollutes the surroundings.  Experts have regularly warned about the dangers of constant exposure to noise.
In recent years, many studies have shown that noise is an issue that must be taken into serious consideration. Not only has noise pollution been associated with hearing loss, there are other harmful effects on the human body.
According to an article on British Medical bulletin, other issues resulting from noise include hypertension, social disorder, psychological and psychiatric disorder, among others. “It is generally believed that noise disturbs activities and communications, causing annoyance. In some cases, annoyance may lead to stress responses, then symptoms and possible illness”, posits the article.
The question is, in view of all these, what is being done to tackle noise pollution in Nigeria?  Some years ago, the Lagos State Government announced the sealing of about 53 churches, mosques and hotels across the state over noise pollution and other environmental offences. That action reportedly followed series of complaints received by the State Environmental Protection Agency from residents who were fed up with the uncontrolled increase of noise pollution in the state.
That action received wide commendation from Nigerians, especially given the fact that ours is a society where many people in authority find it difficult to take necessary measures to correct or stop certain anomalies in the land, most times due to religious, ethnic, tribal or political considerations. Ours is a country where everybody claims to be very religious to the extent that any criticism of a religious leader or a religion no matter how constructive is considered as persecution or even an attack on God.
However, during a recent visit to Lagos, it didn’t seem as if the 2015 action has deterred religious organizations and individuals from polluting the environment with noise. Not much has changed as far as the issue of noise pollution is concerned. The churches and the mosques still disturb their neighborhood with blasts from their mega phones. In fact, sleeping was a nightmare.  Not with the noise from a nearby church which had a week-long night vigil and a mosque whose speakers would start blaring from 4:30AM. The noise emanating from these two worship centers every day was enough to cause permanent deafness in the people living in that vicinity.
The situation is not different in every other state across the country. In some streets in the cities, there could be two or more worship centers disturbing the peace of the people in that neighborhood in the name of worshipping. Sometimes, you will see a small church of not up to 20 members polluting the environment with the noise from huge loud speakers mounted outside, the high-tuned musical equipment and the minister shouting on top of his voice.
Compare what happens in places of worship here in Nigeria with what obtains in other climes and you cannot help but wonder whether we are truly worshiping the same God. This is because while noise of unacceptable decibels boom from our places of worship day in, day out, worship in other civilized countries is associated with peace, quiet and serenity. Is it that our God in Nigeria is hard of hearing that he requires this much debilitating noise to get his attention while the oyibo God only needs a serene and peaceful atmosphere to hear them?
Could it be that with so much noise in the country – generator, traffic and others- one must shout to get the attention of the “Nigerian God?”
With the growing number of worship centers in the country, one had expected that the authorities concerned would have ensured that there is strict adherence to the laws on noise pollution and building of houses, but incidentally, that is not the case. Religious houses are cited anywhere in the country irrespective of whether the place is meant to be strictly a residential area or not.
At passengers loading parks, high density residential areas, industrial areas, construction sites, on the traffic, music stalls, virtually everywhere, we are exposed to excessive noise pollution.
A visit to some markets in the country and you will stop wondering why many people in Nigeria are hard at hearing. At the popular Wuse Market in Abuja, for instance, you could see tens of generating sets switched on at the same time, polluting the environment and generating very high decibels of noise yet beside these are people making hair, fixing nails, selling kwunu and transacting many other forms of businesses.
The truth is that the more little or no attention is paid to the control of noise pollution in the country, the more risks the people face.
It is important, therefore, that concerted efforts be made by relevant authorities and individuals to combat noise pollution in our society.
Yes, we know that noise is considered part of a city life which no country can evade completely, but it behoves the authorities to control it in the interest of the people.
Religious houses, clubs, hotels, event centers and other public places must be made to abide by the rules of the land. Ours cannot continue to be a country where anything goes. In many other countries, churches, mosques, clubs and other public places are sound proof. Why can’t ours be like that? Why can’t we worship without causing pain to the people around us?
Some psychologists have postulated that better education, tougher enforcement and changes in individual habit and behaviour can make a great difference. If more people are aware of the effect of noise pollution on their health and know that they have the right to report the individual or organisation causing that pollution to relevant authorities as the residents of Lagos did, and if the authorities are willing to take necessary actions against the defaulters, not minding whose ox is gored, then ours will be a better place.
However, sincere efforts must be made to increase power generation and electricity supply to homes and business areas. Otherwise, stopping or even controlling the use of generating sets will be a herculean task as the people need power for their daily domestic and business activities.

 

Calista Ezeaku