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Opinions of Monday, 15 November 2010

Columnist: Acheampong, Elvis Akwasi

Rampant Noise Pollution In Accra, A Danger In Disguises.

There is no doubt that the level of noise pollution in Accra is above the ambient level. It has become a cancer that many inhabitants of the city have become adapted to live with. This is due to the fact that, many believe that there is nothing anyone can do to stop the nuisance of noise making and its associated discomfort. Many inhabitants are unaware of the effect of excessive noise. Some even think it is a natural phenomenon that no one should even worry about.
Noise can be defined as any complex sound waves that are a periodic, in other words, sound waves with irregular vibration and no definite pitch. One may ask, why should we be perturbed about excessive noise? Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Experts say, sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially hazardous. This is not a welcoming fact to many of us especially when Accra has become the noise hub of the country. Many manufacturing companies whose activities are routinely associated with loud noise are illegally situated right in the midst of residence areas. People who live in these locations are constantly exposed to continuous loud and excessive noise. One cannot complain much about the excessive noise level at market centers. In this part of the world, shouting is the traditional and an acceptable way sellers at market centers draw attention of customers to their goods unlike other countries, where the power of the internet and other modern technologies are harnessed to serve the same purpose.
Another disturbing illegal practice that is gradually becoming a norm in the city is the sales of music CDs and cassettes on mobile tracks. These mobile music hawkers open their sound systems so loud that one can hardly bear the noise that emanates from them. All in the name of marketing their products, they care or know less about the harm they are causing themselves and others. The stationary music sellers are equally guilty of this illegality. Because the city authorities are doing very little to curb this new illegal practice many more people are joining the trade day in and out. As a means of attracting customers, drinking bars open their sound system so loud that one can hear their music as far as 300m away. Those who patronage these drinking bars call this noise enjoyment or fun. Neighbors complain but their complaint has no remedy because many of these drinking bar operators have permits and the law concerning excessive noise is hardly enforced. Some churches are equally guilty of noise pollution in the city. Many churches sing loudly and beat drums from Monday to Sunday. It is good to serve God as Christians but opening sound instrument to a point that may cause harm to others and our selves becomes even a ‘sin’. Nowadays nightclubs are everywhere, and most of them are built with no noise restraining gadgets to impede the sound from causing nuisance to people who live around. On occasions such as traditional funerals and marriage engagements people are exposed to excessive and dangerous noise. Overwhelmed with joy, the music is made so loud to a point that is harmful to human health; they hardly consider the possible effect loud noise can have on them and other who are not in the happy mood with them. Sadly this and many other similar activities have become part of us because no one seems to care or know about the dangers associated with noise pollution.
Health implications of noise pollution
There are serious health complications associated with elevated noise levels. Exposure to excessive noise can cause hearing lose. This occurs when too much noise hurts the hair cells in the inner ear and it can result in permanent damage. If this should happen, one will have to use hearing aids since there is no way to correct the problem. The danger is that, hearing lose due to excessive noise is not associated with any pain so one may not realize the effect till hearing is permanently lost. Noise not only affects hearing. It affects other parts of the body and body systems. It has been established by audiologist that excessive noise can induce ischemic heart disease, hypertension, vasoconstriction, and other cardiovascular impacts. Noise pollution is also known to induce premature ejaculation. There are also studies that have attributed some birth defects to exposure of pregnant women to excessive noise, though the evidence is limited.
Noise also makes speech communication harder. More concentration and energy is needed not only to listen and hear over the noise but also to speak louder above the noise. As a result, voices can be strained and vocal cord abuses, such as laryngitis, develop. It is at physical strain to carry on even an enjoyable conversation in the presence of noise.

Way forward to curbing the noise menace.
There is no question that noise is both a public health hazard and an environmental pollutant as well. There is therefore the need for us as a city and a country to give it the needed attention just as it is given to issues such as armed robbery, road accidents and HIV and AIDS. As individuals, we should learn to avoid and stay far of excessive noise. City authorities should ensure that permits are not given to factories to operate in areas close to residential areas. The level of noise made by industries should be regulated. Efforts should be made to ensure that both workers and people who stay near industries whose activities are associated with noise are protected. Laws that prohibit excessive noise making in the city should be enforced and defaulters should be punished severely to serve as a deterrent to prospective offenders. There should be awareness creation by the National Commission and Civic Education about the harmful effects of noise pollution and the need to curb the menace. The onus lies on us citizens to advocate for the need to make unnecessary noise a thing of the past.

Elvis Akwasi Acheampong
Freelance writer and president of Green Ghana Foundation.