October 21, 2020

Noise Pollution: silence to the problem that can't be seen

City: Addis AbabaFeaturedSocietyInterview

Noise pollution is a kind of pollution caused by excess noise that is unwanted or unpleasant. This…

Avatar: Zemen Mekonnen
By Zemen Mekonnen

Zemen Mekonnen is a Content Creater at Addis Zeybe. She is a graduate from Addis Abeba University School of Law and Governance.

Noise Pollution: silence to the problem that can't be seen

Noise pollution is a kind of pollution caused by excess noise that is unwanted or unpleasant. This excess sounds unreasonably intrude into the daily activities of people. Most of its sources are attributed to urban developments like service providing facilities, roads, airports that are built so close to the residential areas and so on. Even though the aim of these development constructions is for a better life, it is also causing problems because of the little consideration given to noise pollution. 

Addis Ababa is expanding and developing in different spectrums yet poor urban planning is displayed throughout the city. Addis Zeybe spoke with Lemmesa Gudeta, head of environmental pollution prevention and regulation team at the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority. With regards to the matter of poor urban planning, Lemmesa noted: "service providing facilities like night clubs and bars are built very close to residential areas and this facility usually runs their business at night, making the matter more unbearable".  Poor urban planning includes allowing the opening of such services providers very close to densely populated residential areas where they disrupt the environment of the society.

The reality of Addis is that; industrial, commercial and residential areas are found meshed up together, which makes enforcing rules against noise pollution completely arduous. With regards to this Lemmesa mentioned  "in the case of facility providing establishments, no one communicates with us  before permitting those establishments to start their business. The Culture and Tourism Office and Licence Permit Office do not include noise pollution in their regulation and when we discuss with them about the matter they say they don't have any footing to deal with the matter so they just tell us to punish the wrongdoers even though they gave them the licence so close to a residential area in the first place." 

In Ethiopian legislation, noise pollution is mentioned sporadically here and there in different proclamations. The Supreme law of the land, the FDRE constitution article 44 grants every individual the right to a clean and healthy environment. Article 92 carries a promise stating that the government will endeavour to ensure that all Ethiopians live in a clean and healthy environment but also gives responsibility to both government and citizens shall have the duty to protect the environment. Furthermore, the Civil Code of Ethiopia in article 1225 forbids citizens from causing damage or nuisance to their neighbours. 

Additionally, along with other types of pollution, noise pollution is regulated under these two proclamations; Environmental Impact number 229/2002 and Environmental Pollution Control Proclamation 300/2002.  Another important legislation is the Environment Impact Assessment Proclamation No. 299/2002 which deals with assessing the environmental impact of any activity or institution before or after it's construction or implementation. When we come to the specific laws related to noise pollution we find advertisement proclamation no 759/2012 which prohibits advertisements causing sound pollution through any sound magnifying machine which does not comply with the sound limit set by the appropriate governmental authority.

The Environmental Pollution Control Proclamation No. 300/2002 prohibits any person from polluting the environment by violating the pertinent standard. The law states “advertisements causing sound pollution through any sound magnifying machine, which does not comply with the sound limit set by the appropriate governmental body but the reality is different, all these laws and regulations but the streets of Addis Ababa have long become endless exhibitions for earsplitting advertisement noises. 

Federal Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), as a government body with the power to formulate policies, strategies and standards, has specified maximum tolerable noise levels based on the general requirements set by WHO. The institution takes various measures to deal with noise pollution Lemmsa added "we first prepare a legal ground from the proclamation issued by the federal government to regulations then finally directives. Then we work in creating awareness to identified areas and sources for causing or being subjected to noise pollution." 

The EPA governmental body has the power to formulate policies, strategies and standards. It has specified maximum tolerable noise levels based on the general requirement set by WHO. The institution uses decibel(DB) standard voice control. For industrial areas, the voice allowed is 75db in the day time and 70db at night. For marker areas 65db day and 55db at night and finally, for living areas, it's 55db day and 45db night. The problem isn’t the lack of the appropriate law but the lack of enforcement and implementation Lemmesa added:: "there is complete lack of cooperation and teamwork within the different governmental organs that are responsible for the matter."

It is important for people to be aware of the extent of their rights on the matter. Proclamation 300/2002 says that any person can complain if he/she believes that the environment has been polluted. The proclamation provided offences and punishments for the offences. The officer who didn’t discharge his duty appropriately will face fines not more than 10,000 birr andor imprisonment of up to 2 years. Also, the fine could go up to 20,000birr. Lemma added "when educating both victims and sources of noise pollution we try to be very disruptive. We notify residents about their rights and identify noise pollutants about their duties. Furthermore, we properly educate and train them about the voice measuring standards and notify them that they can easily measure nice by using the Sound Meter application on their phone. If a voice is excess they must contact the responsible organ and not resort to violent means."

There are law enforcement officers for environmental protection division in every district and if they can’t handle the situation they can go to the Addis Ababa Environmental protection Agency but the problem is that these business owners tune down the noise when they get a tip about the officer's arrival for inspection and for those who have gotten caught off guard were punished by closing their business but it’s no use cause they reopen a month later and resume with the chaos. This matter should be dealt with properly. The collaborative time working environment must exist between responsible organs.

Application of EIA (Environmental impact assessment) before making any law or policy, undertaking a project, planning housing projects could be one mechanism of minimizing the dangerous impacts of noise pollution and to better implement the existing laws as the cause and effect of not considering all this the outcome may be even worse due to development and technology that is changing the way of life the society if not monitored properly. Noise policy must be strictly based on the assessment of all possible impacts.