Government should go all out to enforce laws on noise pollution

The Lagos State Government recently shut down 70 churches, 20 mosques and about 11 hotels, club houses and beer parlours in a move aimed at reducing the noise level in the state. The General Manager, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Bola Shabi, said that the state government would no longer allow make-shift buildings to be used as places of worship. “As at today,” said Shabi, “we have been able to reduce the noise level to only about 35 per cent. That is not a pass mark. So, until we reach that target of 70 to 80 per cent, we will continue the enforcement. We want to ensure that Lagos is noise-free by the year 2020.”

It is bad enough that Lagosians literally go to hell and return in trying to commute from one point to another, given the traffic snarl they grind through daily. Yet it is worse that even at night they are unable to get good hours of sleep owing to the growing amount of noise in the neighbourhood. Such noises are either coming from the generating sets when there is power outage, as is often the case, or from the many churches and mosques whose loudspeakers constantly blare to the highest decibel.

Against the background that some of the health issues associated with noise pollution include cardiovascular challenges like blood pressure levels and stress-related diseases, sleeping disorders, fatigue as well as hearing problems, we believe the Lagos State Government is right in its decision to take action against those causing noise pollution.

According to Shabi, “nobody is allowed to make noise above 55 decibel during the day in the residential area and only 45 decibel is allowed in such area at night. In the industrial areas, 90 decibel of noise is allowed during the day while the noise rate must not exceed 80 decibel at night in such areas.”

The unchecked establishment of churches and mosques in residential neighbourhoods is a tell-tale sign of the subversion of law and order in our society. In properly planned estates and neighbourhoods, religious worship centres are usually designated away from residential areas in such a way that the noise generated from such centres could hardly be a source of nuisance.

With the grating noise of many generators, sounding as if they have no exhaust pipes, residential neighbourhoods literally go up in babel of sounds whenever there is power outage. In such neighbourhoods, nightfall and sleeping become nightmarish. Yet apart from the loud noise that generating plants from hotels produce, the heavy fumes from their exhausts also pollute the environment in no small measure.

However, beyond the publicity blitz the agency garnered in sealing up the said facilities, it also has a duty to mount a standing surveillance to ensure that the sealed outfits are not surreptitiously re-opened for “business”. We say this because in 2014, the same LASEPA sealed up 24 religious outfits for breaching the environmental laws of the state and another 53 earlier in the year. It is not impossible that some of those being sealed now were among the ones previously shut.

While we support the establishment of religious or worship centres, we believe that they must do so within the ambit of the law. The indiscriminate siting of such centres even in residential neighbourhoods is a clear affront on the rights of the residents who have to suffer the effects of the noise they do not generate. Not only do such noises have dangerous impact on the health of the victims, they rob the people of their secular right, as they are inadvertently drawn into such worship sessions because loudspeakers are virtually affixed to their homes.

Therefore, we urge LASEPA, as we had earlier done, to widen its dragnet of surveillance across the length and breadth of the state in such a manner that noise pollution in whatever form or by which institution, is contained, if only for the health of the people.