The festive season usually brings out the best and the worst in people. There are those who decide, for once, to be socially responsible and think about the welfare of others.
Then there are those who see it as a time to paint the town red. Now, where there is a culture of the rule of law, people know their limits and act accordingly. There are always policy and legal ramifications to contend with in one’s actions. Let us take the first case.
In Germany, at least four states broke with tradition last year by banning the use of pyrotechnics and firecrackers on New Year’s Eve. This was for the “simple” reason that it was aimed at protecting the sensibilities of refugees from war-ravaged countries.
Germany is currently faced with an unprecedented number of asylum seekers from wars mainly in Syria and Iraq. One German official summed it thus: “People from war zones tend to associate the bangs with shots and bombs, rather than with New Year’s fireworks.
That could reignite people’s traumas.” In the second case, a reader has written pleading that I highlight the torture that some Eastlands residents in Buru Buru area endured during the same period.
A shopping Mall that opened about a year ago in the midst of a few residential areas held a New Year’s Eve bash at which the decibel levels simply went overboard.
The ruckus that started a couple of hours to midnight went on until the call of the nearby Muezzin at about 5 am. This messed up the festive mood for the residents.
In the first case, we have an administration that is proactive and sensitive to the people they serve. It did not need any environmental or human rights lobby groups to push the states’ officials to prohibit the use of firecrackers.
As effective and responsible leaders, they interpreted their mandate accordingly to mind the interests of the alien minority. The residents were equally sensitised and did not oppose the prohibition, which they would have claimed interfered with the enjoyment of their civil liberties.
In our case, commercial interests seem to have overridden any other consideration, including common sense and legal sanctions on noise pollution.
Who gave the licence for such an event? Was the licensing authority unaware that the site is located in the midst of residential estates? Noise pollution is against regulations of the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), the Bill of Rights in the Constitution and Nairobi County laws.
Apparently, Nairobi residents have become accustomed to noise pollution. In Eastlands, the notorious matatu culture continues to thrive with scores of public service vehicles playing loud music on the roads, day and night, to and from the central business district.
Even in upmarket areas, there are some entertainment resorts that produce unacceptable levels of noise. Annoyingly, constant complaints by affected residents do not elicit any action from the relevant authorities. Noise pollution is a health hazard and menace that interferes with the peaceful functioning of people and activities as it makes it difficult to concentrate.
Former Environment minister the late John Michuki had taken this issue seriously and had directed Nema to enforce noise pollution laws, particularly in residential areas. This is something that should be reactivated for the sake of the people’s peace of mind.
Indeed, Nema should have a publicised 24-hour hotline which people can call with such complaints. All players with a stake in the city’s environment need to meet and create a policy framework that zones areas where noise pollution is prohibited.
The basic right to a clean environment is enshrined in the Constitution and a policy framework must be created to safeguard this right. The writer is the executive director, Centre for Climate Change [email protected]