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Stronger noise pollution laws needed—EMA head
Managing director/CEO of the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) Joth Singh has called for stronger legislation to combat noise pollution. He said so in a release sent to the T&T Guardian.
The statement said: “The EMA has been attempting to regulate noise under the Noise Pollution Control Rules (NPCR). However, it is becoming increasingly evident, through public concerns, that stronger legislation needs to be in place so people can enjoy their properties. To this end, the EMA has begun a review of the NPCR to ensure it is realistic in meeting the needs of the country.”
When asked how the legislation is going to be amended, an EMA representative told the T&T Guardian the legislation is now under review and the type of amendments was yet to be determined. There have been informal complaints of noise pollution from fireworks used to usher in the new year.
ASP Joanne Archie of the T&T Police Service (TTPS) said the police received many informal complaints about fireworks, but many were after the fact. She added, however, that there had been fewer complaints than in previous years. Nalini Dial, founder of the NGO Animals are Human Too, said the group planned to take action against the use of fireworks. Dial said there were laws to regulate the use of fireworks.
T&T, she said, had a culture of noise and it began from Divali and continued well beyond the new year. Dial said there was no set time for the use of fireworks and called on the Government to put its foot down. Not only were animals affected, Dial said, but elderly people had also been complaining of having to visit the doctor.
“We have taken a New Year’s resolution to seriously attack the problem, if it means a protest or otherwise,” she said. Dr Varma Deyalsingh, secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of T&T, shared the belief that T&T has a culture of noise.
Deyalsingh said many illnesses are worsened by excessive noise. He said anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses were exacerbated by noise pollution. Other diseases such as hypertension also develop, he said, when noise pollution disturbs sleep.
Many letters to the editor, Deyalsingh said, expressed public concern over noise pollution. To Deyalsingh an individual’s home should be their sanctuary and consequently, it should be a quiet and peaceful environment.
Sleep, he added, was recommended for most people who suffer from mental diseases and when this is disturbed results in attendant problems or conditions. Deyalsingh also warned against fetes in residential areas for the upcoming Carnival season.
He said residents should be informed before fetes are held in these areas. He appealed to the authorities and the Government to amend and implement laws to combat noise pollution. In the release, the EMA said it was hard to determine the level of noise pollution generated from fireworks, since it originated from multiple locations.
It added during any event the authority sensitises the public about the ill effects of noise pollution through campaigns in the print media and radio.
It said: “In terms of planned events for which noise variations are sought, once firework usage is indicated on the application, the EMA will stipulate a particular time period in which the fireworks can be discharged as well as a suitable decibel level. The variation will also contain a condition where the surrounding community needs to be informed that fireworks will be discharged so the necessary precautions can be taken.”
The release pointed out that under the Fireworks Permits Regulations, police permission was needed to use fireworks. Also, it said, under the Summary Offences Act: Section 99(1), “Except as prescribed by regulations under this act any person who throws, casts, sets fire to or lets off any fireworks within any town is liable to a fine of $1,000.”
The EMA, under the NPCR, has the authority to regulate noise pollution, using prescribed standards. To be considered a breach, the measured noise levels must exceed the prescribed standards for the continuous (lasting longer than 30 minutes) or instantaneous (causing a spike in the ambient sound level) limits. Table 1 shows the NPCR standards and Table 2 is a rough guide to understanding the decibels (dB) levels.
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