Soon laws to combat noise pollution

By Santhush Fernando
Noise pollution at carnivals, musical shows and religious festivals is to be controlled through new Community Noise Standards drafted by the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry.

The Central Environmental Authority (CEA), which is the statutory body in Sri Lanka for the drafting of regulation over environment related matters has referred the draft proposal to the Attorney General and is awaiting the green light to gazette the regulation.

Community activities such as musical shows, carnivals, nightclubs, reception halls and karaoke clubs along with commercial activities such as street lottery selling, record bars, emergency generators and air conditioning plants are cited as public nuisance .

The CEA committee headed by Deputy Director (Air, Noise and Vibration) C. K. Ameratunga has formulated the new regulations and the Supreme Court intimated the Authority to draft community noise standards. At present there are no standards set out for most noise emitting activities except for industries and construction.

 Sarath Wijasakara, Senior Environmental Officer of the CEA told The Nation that an island-wide survey conducted by the Authority had found that the largest number of sources of noise pollution is being reported under the category of cultural and religious activities.

The use of loud speakers at public places and use of emergency generators at commercial establishments and nightclubs was also found to be a nuisance to the public at large.

 The existing noise standards for industrial and construction activities were gazetted under the National Environmental Act (NEA) No. 47 of 1980 in Gazette Extraordinary No.924/12 dated May 23,1996.

 The present Anti Noise Pollution Programme, which was launched in June 2003, is the first of such in the country, and is limited to the Colombo city. Legal action against offenders is taken under the Nuisance Ordinance. The sound limit during the day is 65 decibels and 55 decibels in the night.

The formulation of these standards was undertaken by a technical committee of the Air Quality and Noise Pollution Studies Unit of the Ministry of Environment comprising experts from the relevant stakeholder agencies in Sri Lanka.

All community noise sources were categorized into four sub categories; religious activities, entertainment activities (indoor and outdoor) commercial activities (mobile and stationary) and household equipment and related activities.

 Loud intermittent toot from vehicle horns and silencers compounded with lack of standard specifications for horns had also been pointed out as a major irritant to the public.

 The Authority called in for submissions last year from relevant ministries of religious and cultural affairs, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and members of the general public regarding community activities and on how to curb noise pollution while conducting these activities.