Whether we are walking on the street, travelling by public transport or even resting at our homes, we cannot escape the loud noises coming from -- vehicle horns, ear-splitting music and the booming noise of loud speakers. Sound pollution has almost become second-nature to us, especially to city-dwellers. Even though we are exposed every minute to an array of harmful noises, reminding us of the physical, emotional and psychological dangers of sound pollution, nearly not enough has been done to tackle the problem. In 2005, in accordance with the Supreme Court orders, the Central Environmental Authority submitted a series of regulations to mitigate community noise pollution. However, after being reviewed and amended several times, this Act has not seen the light of the day up until now.
Regualtion was to be gazzetted in 2007: CEA
R. M. Kulasena, Deputy Director of the Air Quality and Noise Pollution Division of the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) said that the regulation submitted by the CEA to the Supreme Court in 2006, following the Supreme Court order in 2005 is still under review.
“The regulation, amended according to the orders of the Supreme Court was to be gazetted in 2007,” he explained. “However, several other parties put forth petitions and affidavits. All these needed to be considered before the regulations could be finalised into an Act. After Supreme Court gave the final hearing in October 2010, these regulations have been submitted to the Legal Draftsman for review and has not been finalised yet.”
He added that the Act would include several regulations to mitigate community noise pollution.
One was a regulation prohibiting loud, disturbing music to be played during musical shows and socio-political events after 10 pm Monday to Thursday nights, after 1 am on Friday and Saturday night and after 12.30am on Sunday nights. Furthermore, Kulasena explained that according to the provisions outlined in the regulatory Act, permission needed to be obtained from district courts before loud speakers could be used.
He added that provisions in the community noise regulation also addressed issues of lottery sellers, sound amplifiers used in shops, record bars, and various wayside sales promotions.
Even though the Act regulating these sources of sound pollution has not been passed, he said that the police have been given the power to take action on the basis of Supreme Court’s decision pertaining to musical shows and events. The existing police ordinance means that in event of any loud, disturbing noise, the public has the right to make complaints and the police can take necessary actions to prevent extreme sound pollution caused by shows and events. Currently, organisers of such events need police permission to use sound amplifiers.
“Even though it is not a regulation or a law, there is a police ordinance in place to control sound pollution caused by loud music and noise emanating at musical shows and such events,” Kulasena stated.
However, the regulations regarding sound played at religious ceremonies are much less restrictive. Even though these regulations have been outlined by the Central Environmental Authority, since the Community Noise Pollution Act has not passed as yet, strict action cannot be taken against any religious institution.
While the laws pertaining to loud community noise are non-existent, there are laws which control the sound pollution caused by vehicle horns.
“A regulation pertaining to vehicle horns was gazetted recently and became a law in 2012,” Kulasena said. “The noise from the horn cannot exceed 97 db five metres from the vehicle and it cannot exceed 105 db two metres from the vehicle.”
Kulasaena said that this law was brought forth because modified horns and sirens are highly disturbing to the public.
“The Motor Traffic Commissioner has been empowered to carry out this law,” he added. “Since it was introduced just last year, we are still in the process of preparing strategies to further implement the law. It will be strictly implemented after holding awareness programmes inform the public.”
He added that the CEA was also formulating a regulation to mitigate sound pollution caused by vehicle noise including noise from vehicle silencers, explaining that this was one of the most harmful sources of sound pollution.
With regard to industrial noise, Kulasena said that a law implemented in 1996 controls the noise pollution caused by factories, heavy machinery and industrial structures. He added that the CEA is planning amendments to the law to suit for the changing social, economical and life-style factors.
“Noise pollution is a big problem in our society today,” Kulasena stressed. “We need the public’s support in getting these laws and regulations passed.”
When contacted by the Daily Mirror, Wimal Rubasinghe, the Chairman at the CEA stressed that regulations pertaining to community noise will be implemented within the next two months.
‘Must push for the enactment’
We have to push for the enactment and especially the strict enforcement of this noise pollution regulation act- Sarath N. Silva, former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who ordered regulations to control noise pollution said that even though a police ordinance is in place to take action against noise polluters, these standards of noise pollution have not been specified by regulations and have not been passed as laws, thus weakening its implementation.
“Because of the absence of regulations, and the lack of standards to measure noise pollution, the police ordinance is not strictly enforced,” he said. “It has gradually broken down and now it is ignored altogether at times.”
Mr. Silva highlighted that tackling noise pollution did not mean disrupting the enjoyment of the public or limiting their freedom.
“Enjoyment doesn’t mean you need to play blaring music and disturb an entire neighbourhood,” he pointed out. “In India, England and all other developed nations, such noise pollution regulations are strictly enforced. In Sri Lanka too, we have to push for the enactment and especially the strict enforcement of this noise pollution regulation act.”
Because of the absence of regulations, and the lack of standards to measure noise pollution, the police ordinance is not strictly enforced
“Even a quick exposure to loud sound cause severe damage”
Dr. Chandra Jayasuriya, consultant ENT surgeon, National Hospital, Colombo stated that human ear has a greater tendency to get damaged when exposed to sound with intensity more than 80-90 Decibels.
She pointed out, that hair cells within the human ear which are very sensitive to sound could easily be damaged by loud sound. “ “Even a very quick exposure of three seconds to loud sound could cause a severe damage to the cochlea of the human ear,”. She added that when the sound intensity increases it can have a direct impact upon the neurons.
According to her, even the noise made by Kottu-makers at wayside eateries is harmful enough to damage the human ear.
She added that industrial noises has a greater tendency to damage hair cells of the human ear. Equipment used in the mining industry, weaving machines and the machines used in the garment sector as prime examples. She stressed that in industries where heavy sound is involved, the employer must provide the employees with ear muffs in order to safeguard their health.
Prevention sound pollution is a human right: Environmental Lawyer
Jagath Gunawardena, a senior environmental lawyer, stated that preventing sound pollution is a right of the public since loud noise can disturb daily life.
He pointed out that according to the section 80 of the Police Ordinance, police can take action against those who overstep its demarcations and play loud music and cause disturbing noises.
“If in case anyone who wants to hold an event after 10.00 p.m, they should get permission from the police first.” he explained.
He further mentioned that lottery sellers who use loud speakers are also covered under the Police Ordinance where as the buses have no restriction on the horn variations.
He was firm that it is better to have restrictions and conditions on the horn volumes of buses since most of the bus drivers use to have something called a ‘beater’ which amplifies the sound of the bus horn.
Not many people have viewed/read this article, and until now no one has written a comment. I cannot add to what has already been printed here, since it is pretty comprehensive. I would like to just point out one example of massive noise pollution that occurs at Dehiwala junction when there are more buses than room for them to halt and still not block the moving traffic. I find it hard to believe the police are powerless to do something about the chaos and cacophony that result.
ranjan Monday, 01 July 2013 08:49 AM
Music in public transport must be stopped. We cannot be in peace and quiet inside the buses.
citizen perera Wednesday, 03 December 2014 06:44 PM
Nobody seems to care about the noise around us, whether it be the tooting of horns from mobile bakers, there seems to be a breakdown of law and order in the country, nobody cares about the common man. I live close to the ratmalana airport and the sound emanating from helicopters is unbearable, they permit the training schools to carry on regardless, disturbing people living in the vicinity right throughout the day.
D.M.V.P. Sunday, 15 December 2019 05:09 PM
This has become a big problem nowadays. I do not understand why people do not speak against this issue. I think the government should be strict in this matter. Otherwise, it will affect on the kids harmfully.
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