In Tanzania, more than ever, our right to life is now threatened by noise pollution. Efforts to slow or stop these noises need new effective strategies from all actors in the country.
Noise pollution causes serious health problems, including cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, and hearing impairment.
It also causes behavioural changes, including lack of concentration, pain and fatigue, uncertainty, self-confidence, irritability and aggression, speech problems, decreased working capacity, disturbed personal relationships, and stress reactions.
Across the world, noise pollution is affecting health due to, among other reasons, the inability to sleep peacefully for eight hours due to the noise.
Yet, Tanzania faces ever-increasing noise pollution from open-air bars, open-air brickmaking factories and industries, car garages, and prayer houses in residential areas.
Also, motorbike riders are increasingly playing with their bikes in streets and residential areas, revving their bike engines to sound like gunshots and causing pedestrians to be shocked, sometimes falling in fright.
We must protect our elders, seniors, and children from noise pollution in our communities and streets.
Despite noise pollution being unlawful in Tanzania under regulations made under sections 147 and 148 of the Environmental Management Act (EMA) of 2004, the problem continues unabated, affecting millions of people, including the most vulnerable.
To resolve the problem, wananchi must report noise pollution cases and protect their right to life by taking social and legal actions against polluters.
Also, responsible state authorities must walk the talk and fully utilise existing social and legal means to clamp down on polluters. At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the State to ensure its citizens have a safe and healthy environment to live in.
Although the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) is doing its job in dealing with noise pollution, many noise polluters continue to ignore noise pollution laws.
It is time to devise concrete mechanisms to deal with polluters. Here are some measures that NEMC and other authorities may want to consider:
Work with sub-village/street and village leaders to address the noise pollution problems. The NEMC must enable leaders at the grassroots level to gather information from the community about who is creating noise pollution and take action against them.
Such cases should also be reported to the NEMC. If these leaders do not attend to wananchi’s complaints, they must be answerable to relevant district authorities and NEMC.
Engage motorbikes youth groups and their formal and informal associations and raise their awareness about the health effects of their noise-making tendencies.
Engage wise and respected elders to advise youth and bodaboda drivers about the need to follow the country’s rules and regulations and also the need to be responsible and caring citizens.
Recruit community-based law enforcers who liaise with relevant authorities to observe and report noise polluters.
In municipalities like Moshi, noise and environmental pollution are largely controlled by wananchi through community policing. We can learn from Moshi and adopt what works in our localities or modify it to fit our people and environment.
Create specific provisions for the police to collect such fines as they do for traffic cases and ensure every police station – most located within the small towns and urban centres – monitor, report, and take action on noise pollution.
Create a call centre like that of TANESCO where people can directly report cases that are dealt with instantly. TANESCO’s call centre has proved effective in the past few months.
NEMC needs to report at least once a month how many cases of noise pollution have been reported, how many have been dealt with, how many old cases are reported again, and why.
All new bars, nightclubs and prayer houses must have complete, soundproof structures, sound meters and other basic amenities before they are registered and allowed to operate.
It cannot do business as usual because, with the growing population, the uncontrolled establishment will cause unnecessary tensions and conflicts among our rather harmonious communities.
When it comes to noise pollution, we must stop being a nation of complainers and become a nation of doers and protect our own right to life, the health and lives of vulnerable groups – babies, elderly people, and people with chronic heart diseases, high blood pressure and other ailments.
Epiphania Ngowi holds a master’s in public health from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further clarification.