Who should police noise polluters?

* Time is now to deal with noise pollution, whether produced by churches, bars, wedding ceremonies and all

* Let’s not fear people behind noise pollution anymore; let’s confront them! 

Pentecostal churches are mushrooming in the middle of residential areas and they come with them loud blaring public address system, play loud music that completely disturbed peaceful Sundays from morning till afternoon.

They also conduct sermons at night that sometimes take the whole night — disturbing people’s peaceful sleep.

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Joseph Kayira writes on his Blogspot https://tracejkayira.blogspot.com/2023/09/who-should-police-noise-polluters-by.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR1QvniGC3VrvMszr54bN6_xJ-yq5wNfu1bBbH51GOH8dRXMD7fzL32Gpo0  — an analysis of this occurrence, which he rightly describes as noise pollution that needs to be curtailed:

Noise pollution refers to harmful or annoying levels of noise. We must therefore underline ‘harmful’, ‘annoying’, ‘noise’ and the word ‘pollution’ itself. Anything harmful, causes or is likely to cause harm. And anything annoying causes irritation or annoyance. While noise is a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance.

Pollution is the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects. All these explanations allude to the cardinal point that noise pollution should not be condoned in human habitat.

Yet, in the name of democracy and the rights that come with it, no one wants to act responsibly when it comes to combating noise pollution. It is even worse when the polluters are religious or moralistic in nature. There is this sense of entitlement that no one should question these institutions if they decide to make noise all night long in the name of praise and worship at their church or a at a house of a member of that church. 

All of a sudden there are churches mushrooming in the middle of residential areas. That should not be questioned – the Republican Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.

However, it is the manner in which some quarters worship that is raising concerns. Disruption of other people’s business in the name of worshiping is disorder. Whether by design or otherwise, some religious establishments believe in conducting their sermons so loud, so much that those around where the worshiping is taking place can hardly communicate.

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Not long ago, rights activist Seodi White was caught in video that went viral arguing with congregants of an unknown church in Blantyre over noise pollution. They called her names saying she was a devil for asking them to stop making ‘noise’. She responded “You are also a devil.’ The congregants asked her to leave to which she responded, “I am not leaving. The noise is too much…” 

All this shows how some members of churches and ministries [of evangelism] think about people who complain about noise pollution. Yet those who complain do not do so out of malice. They know exactly what the council by-laws say on noise pollution.

What is particularly annoying is the behaviour of some self-righteous members of some congregations carry themselves with this air of importance as if they don’t live here. They have become too arrogant and think those who try to reason with them belong to hell. It is them who are trying to create hell for others.

Praise and worship is good if it is done in an orderly manner. What we see around our residential areas is organized noise. The city fathers must do something about it.

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Again, most of these institutions have bands which play live music. As they belt the music from their equipment, the whole residential area comes to a standstill. Others use huge loud speakers, and when the preacher is spreading the word, noise that goes with it can be deafening.

Choirs use these instruments to spice up ceremonies but the uncoordinated decibels end up in voices going into different sides – lacking unison and creating harmful noise.

Equally, wedding and engagement ceremonies organisers have left us all wondering why a DJ should hold us ransom all night long, spinning music that is heard over two kilometres away.

Not even local chiefs have a say on this. It is obvious – traditional leaders benefit in many ways during wedding celebrations, zinkhoswe, zinamwali, funerals and so on and so forth. You would not expect them chastise to a DJ who is tormenting the whole township or village in the name of these celebrations.

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But things must change. No one should be above the law. No one is above the law. No one is more equal than the other.

Bar and bottle-store owners are another group that is causing a lot of havoc in residential areas. They go on playing music till late as sozzled up revelers drink and dance. There are set levels of decibels that councils commend for use in bottle-stores and bars but that is not adhered to. 

A culture of fear

From church vigils to zinkhoswe and from zinamwali to bar and bottle-stores, the torture and harm that residents are subjected to is unfair and uncalled for. A just and democratic society entails that people should enjoy equal rights. But fear of the unknown is the reason residents are subjected to noise pollution.

People do not want to confront churches for fear of being labelled Asatana or the assumption that “ridicule us today but you will need the church tomorrow and we will not be there for you”.

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And there are questions that authorities need to answer in earnest. There are designated areas where churches are meant to be built. Yet some churches find their way in the middle of residential areas.

Secondly, there are bottle-stores and clubs that are found right in residential areas – sometimes neighbouring schools. Drunks think alcoholic beverages cannot go down well with low music. They will demand that volume levels should go up several decibels.

In the course of doing that chaos reigns. Sadly, society has become so afraid to say anything at all. All this chaos has become part of life justified by “its democracy, everyone is free to do as they please”.

Those who coined the word democracy are surely laughing at us. Noise pollution cannot be justified by democracy. Noise pollution should never be justified by money or religion.    

A former Cabinet Minister said these challenges are quite real for Councils. To deal with the challenges, government is championing a City Transformation Agenda that will systematically guide the efforts geared toward dealing with these challenges.

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He said while Councils have challenges, he also believes these challenges could be lessened if citizens played their part. Most of these challenges are worsened by citizens themselves as they do not do what they are supposed to do. He believes that what our cities and towns need is a process of renewal and regeneration. 

He said: “Through City or Town summits that we intend to introduce, we believe a platform will be created where civic leaders, political leaders, private sector operatives and citizens will come together to collectively vision the future of their cities in terms of what needs to be done and how it can be done to ensure that we have cities that we can all be proud of.

“This would further be reinforced by a viable system of by-laws that would ensure that the basic rules and regulations governing key areas for renewal and regeneration are adhered with the support of the municipal police.

“These challenges are real but they can be effectively overcome if there is a sense of mutual belonging and collective ownership of our towns and cities by key stakeholders including residents,” the former minister says.

At district level it is also obvious that no one really cares about noise pollution. People operate bars and night clubs with impunity. They don’t respect by-laws. Those who are supposed to pin down these offenders or law breakers have over the years only feigned indifference. They equally need to be policed. 

Going forward communities must wake up and start taking authorities to task; communities must also stand up to this impunity and deal with it once and for all. Noise pollution should be treated as evil, regardless of the source.

If people will continue to sit back and expect that someone from somewhere in the world will come here and condemn those behind noise pollution, they are wasting time. Such miracles don’t happen anymore.

Time is now to deal with noise pollution. Let’s not fear people behind noise pollution anymore; let’s confront them!

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