Making Joyful Noise unto the Lord

By Kwabena Opong
Early in September some concerned citizens living in some suburbs of Accra complained bitterly in the media about noise making by some charismatic churches, night clubs and mosques in their neighborhoods. It was not the first time that such complaints have been made. What has worsened the problem is the unrelenting increase in the number of such noisy establishments in the neighborhoods. Living in the central districts of Accra one is subjected, especially early in the wee hours of the morning, by garbage trucks and vehicular traffic all night. People move to the suburbs for peace and tranquility but the neighborhoods these days have become a haven for such noise making establishments.
Take a trip to any Accra suburb during the day and most often the only noise is likely to be sourcing from a lone dog or some frogs foraging in some nearby wetland. In the nights it would either be a prayer or gospel music blaring from a very high decibel sound system housed in a makeshift structure usually constructed with roofing sheets and wood. On a close look, one sees either a small bunch of worshippers or a large number of people joyfully singing their hearts out and disturbing the entire neighborhood. As if that was not enough, the call to worship by Moslem muezzins at dawn appears to complement what their Christian counterparts did all night. And sometimes, depending on the location of the neighborhood, noisy reveling at night clubs that also end sometimes around 5:00 am keeps neighbors in fitful sleep.
Dr. Simpson Anim Boateng, director of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly’s Metro Public Health Department speaking on the issue admitted that “there is noise everywhere in Accra.” He added that “the laws are written beautifully but enforcement is a problem.” And further to the obvious increase in noise in the city, there does not appear to be any end to the issue.
Doctors and public health specialists do agree that noise pollution is an environmental hazard that affect the health and wellbeing of people. It is said to induce hypertension and blindness. Lack of sleep is also and health hazard that if not checked is equally dangerous. In addition to the aforementioned diseases noise pollution, according to Mrs. Philomena Boakye Appiah, the Brong Ahafo Regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency, noise pollution also causes irritability that affects fetuses carried by pregnant women.
In the city of Accra noise making is usually banned by the Ga traditional authority for three months from the beginning of July every year. The order is supposed to be in preparation for the Homowo festival that usually falls between July and September every year. Most often resentment toward the order emanates from the charismatic churches who argue that it is against the order of their worship. The night clubs usually do not have any problem as they can limit their levels within their premises. But one wonders why worship should be a raucous problem for innocent neighbors. As Dr. Boateng observes, the loud noise from the charismatic churches is a marketing strategy to attract more people into their fold. Why should one business’ marketing strategy disturb, and is making noise the only way to attract worshippers?
According to Kotoka writing on asanewton.wordpress.com, “The Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act of 1994 (Act 940) mandates the EPA to prescribe standards and guidelines relating to the pollution of water, air, land, and noise in the country. Ghana permissible ambient noise as set by the EPA for residential areas requires that noise levels should not be above 55 decibels during the day and 48 at night. Seidu (2011).”
The increasing incidence of noise making in the city does not show any enforcement efforts by the EPA. While researching for this article the writer learned from the police that the appropriate authority to enforce noise pollution laws are the local authorities. If local government authorities are doing any enforcement it is not clear and cannot be felt as complaints have increased of late.
Enforcement of anti-pollution laws or otherwise, so much needs to be done to control noise in the neighborhoods. In the United States, for instance, noise pollution emanating from highways is reduced considerably by high fences built along the roads. Local police authorities are also quite cooperative in quelling unnecessary noise in the communities. One wonders why the Ghanaian police cannot help in that direction. Working with local government authorities, the police can go round and ensure that noise levels from churches and night clubs are within acceptable ranges. The establishments must also be made to sign written undertakings to ensure compliance with the authorities and cooperation with the community.
The effects of noise pollution as have been mentioned above are numerous. Its social impact can affect everyone in the community, including the perpetrators themselves. It is also not only a local issue. It is happening all over the country as rural communities have also begun to attract Pentecostal establishments who usually operate in the night. Every citizen is affected one way or the other and public private attempts at ensuring peace at night within the communities must be made a national priority.
Making joyful noise unto the Lord does not need to disturb one’s neighbor. As the Good Book indicates, we should all be each other’s neighbor.

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Posted by on Oct 16 2014. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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