The need for upholding law and order in urban life (3)

The need for upholding law and order in urban life (3)

We saw increasing lawlessness with regard to informal trading and other economic activities, whereby traders are now occupying any area for trading without abiding to any regulations and in many cases causing a nuisance to other urban land users. We saw increasing lawlessness with regard to land uses, that land users are deciding day and night to do what they want where, to change land uses at will, to develop land without following any regulation, and so on. 

Our next targeted area is urban noise. Even as we write this there are many articles in the papers of people complaining about one form of noise or the other. Any body with activities that are based on noise seem to be able to act without looking over their shoulders; and it would appear like there are no regulations regarding noise; there are no authorities entrusted with enforcing noise abatement.  Discussing noise is possibly a new phenomenon in Tanzania.

In the rural areas, particularly because people and economic activities are scattered, the question of noise as a nuisance and aspect of pollution may not be that serious. In urban areas however, noise could be a major social problem. Since this a new area of concern, we will present our paper in two parts.

This part one will look at theoretical issues related to urban noise and what other countries are doing about it. We will then, in Part Two, zoom on Tanzania and explore areas where some form of control is required.Noise pollution in large cities is an ever-growing problem, due to several factors: the increase in demographic density, increase in and concentration of economic and social activities, the increase in the number and use of per capita devices, appliances and vehicles capable of generating loud noise, the increasing belief that noise is necessary to achieve commercial or social goals, the fact that society is getting used to higher noise levels, and the widespread ignorance regarding the consequences of noise as well as its remedies. Noise is an important aspect of communication.

But also, noise is caused by many human activities and need not be related to communication between members of society. The problem is not noise as such but but excessive noise which can be a nuisance as well as a pollutant. Noise pollution is excessive, displeasing human, animal, or machine-created environmental noise that disrupts the activity or balance of human or animal life. The word noise is considered to be coming from the Latin word nauseas, which metaphorically means disgust or discomfort. Most noise is considered a nuisance but studies have shown that excessive noise has adverse effects on health.   Noise health effects describe problems in both health and behaviour. Unwanted sound (noise) can damage physiological and psychological health.

Noise pollution can cause annoyance and aggression, hypertension, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects. Furthermore, stress and hypertension are the leading causes to health problems, whereas tinnitus can lead to forgetfulness, severe depression and at times panic attacks.  Chronic exposure to noise may cause noise induced hearing loss. Older males exposed to significant occupational noise demonstrate significantly reduced hearing sensitivity than their non-exposed peers, though differences in hearing sensitivity decrease with time and the two groups are indistinguishable by age 79.

A study comparing a tribe called Maaban in the US, who were insignificantly exposed to transportation or industrial noise, to a typical US population showed that chronic exposure to moderately high levels of environmental noise contributes to hearing loss. High noise levels can contribute to cardiovascular effects and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight hour period causes a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and an increase in stress and vasoconstriction leading to the increased blood pressure noted above as well as to increased incidence of coronary artery diseases.

Noise pollution is also a cause of annoyance. A 2005 study by Spanish researchers found that in urban areas households are willing to pay approximately four Euros per decibel per year for noise reduction. In many societies, households especially those in higher income households are willing to move and pay more money but live in quiet neighbourhoods. If a previously quiet neighbourhood becomes noisy, those who are able start moving out and searching for quieter areas. Ceteris paribus, properties in quiet neighbourhoods have a higher value compared to those in noisy areas.

There cannot be argument that noise cause loss of concentration. People who are exposed to constant noise have little or no time to do their own thinking. Anecdotal evidence suggests that children and pupils in noisy areas do not do as well as those students in quiet neighbourhoods. One noise expert has looked at the various legislation adopted in various countries to counter the problem of noise and groups these legislation into four categories, according to several criteria: Noise control legislation can be classified according to their object: environmental, building and entitling ordinances.

Environmental ones usually deal with restrictions upon acceptable indoors and outdoors noise level at different areas or zoning districts. Building ordinances state requisites as to the acceptable noise and vibration insulation (horizontal and vertical) between dwellings, and sometimes also as to the reverberation times of rooms intended for specific uses (i.e., classrooms). Entitling ordinances regulate the acoustical conditions with which buildings, halls, shops, vehicles intended for specific commercial or public activities should comply in order to be allowed to operate. Noise control legislation can be classified according to their nature: preventative, punitive and declarative ordinances.

Preventative ordinances prescribe actions to be taken in order to create favourable conditions towards the reduction of environmental noise, such as education, research projects and monitoring. Punitive ones attempt to discourage noisy activities by the application of different types of punishment (warning, fines, closures). Declarative ordinances state purposes, policies, supports. Noise control legislation can be classified according to the noise descriptor used to set maximum allowable levels: peak frequency, equivalent level, statistical parameters.

Noise control legislation can be classified according to the criteria applied to loosen the acceptable maximum levels: application of corrections (according to zones, day or night, season, type of noise), exemptions, exceptions and variances. It should be noted that many ordinances cover more than one category for each criterion. In the following article we will look at the situation in Tanzania: the sources of excessive noise, what the legislation says, and what could be done to improve the situation.


Author: Lusuga Kironde

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