Noise pollution

As indicated on these pages recently, we are shifting our attention to environmental issues with its associated human rights connotations.


That said, we focused last week on the correlation between environmental issues and human rights. 

Accordingly, I delve into the problems of noise pollution, which at its basic level is any loud or annoying sound that disrupts public peace, regular activities and communications. Noise pollution has become one of today’s prominent environmental risks.

There are countless reports of inhabitants of major cities, especially in Accra, being subjected to excessive noise levels well over the recommended accepted noise levels allowable in any given community.

In these cities, there is an excess of disruptive and unpleasant sound in the surrounding environment, most notably emanating from traffic, industrial activities, funerals, construction work, loud music etc.

The cacophony and unwanted noise not only disturbs the public peace, but more importantly, is a health risk posing grave danger to the physical and mental health of most people.


The problems of noise pollution, especially its devastating effects on public health, has been well documented. The Harvard Medical Journal, commenting on the debilitating effects of noise pollution, states that noise pollution not only contributes to hearing loss, tinnitus and hypersensitivity to sound, but can cause or exacerbate cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, sleep disturbances, stress, mental health and cognition problems, including memory loss and attention deficit disorder, childhood learning delays and low birth weight.

It has been estimated that chronic noise exposure contributes to 48,000 new cases of heart disease in Europe each year and disrupts the sleep of over 6.5 million people. There is a dearth of research or accompanying data on the effects of excessive noise pollution in Africa, but going by the global standards, it can safely be concluded that noise pollution has a negative effect on public health.

To combat the negative effects of noise pollution, most countries resort to the law. In Ghana, legal remedies to abate noise nuisance originate from 2 main sources: criminal and civil law.

In the criminal sphere, the Criminal Offences Act makes noise pollution an offence. For example, Section 297(1) says that a person shall be liable to face a fine not exceeding GH¢200, if after having been warned and failing to desist, he or she makes any loud and unseemly noise whatsoever or causes the annoyance or disturbance of any person. Also, local authorities have bye-laws tailored to check excessive noise. 


The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is the lead government department responsible for measuring and monitoring noise levels. To this end, they have prescribed acceptable noise levels. It is 55 decibels and 48 decibels for daytime and night respectively.

Clearly, there are laws in place to check this public health menace; the big question is, are they in force and, if so, what are the results? Rarely do the police, who can enforce these stipulations under the criminal offences, act and utilise their powers.

Regarding the local and the municipal authorities, the least said about them in relation to enforcing the laws on noise pollution, the better. In addition, there is not a culture of citizens using the civil law to enforce the issue. The net result of all this is that the polluters of noise nuisance have a field day.

Another problem affecting the effective usage of the criminal laws is that the sanctions are not harsh enough to serve as a deterrent to potential or actual noise polluters. A case in point is one that pertains to two notorious restaurants and pubs in Adenta, Oak Lounge and Cloud 9. 

After persistent complaints from the Shalom Estate Residents’ Association, the local authority prosecuted the two establishments. Guess what happened at the end of prosecution?

Each person was fined only GH¢480. Given the turnover of these restaurants and pubs, the amount was just chicken feed. There is no way such a paltry fine would derail a determined businessman bent on making money at the expense of disturbing members of the community.

Loud and unwanted noise has blighted the lives of many and continues to cause many serious health issues. It is, therefore, imperative for all stakeholders (police, local authorities, EPA officials etc) to intensify their efforts in fulfilling their legal duty of ensuring that loud noise does not continue to blight the lives of the suffering masses. 

The writer is a lawyer.
E-mail: [email protected]

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