ZIMBABWEANS will soon be paying fines of up to $5 000 or going to jail for a maximum of one year for disturbing neighbours through noise like playing music at high volume.
All along, the maximum fine has been $20 payable to the police. The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is working on a Statutory Instrument that will allow the agency to enforce section 79 to 81 of the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27].
The sections provide for fines ranging from level 1 which is $20 to 14 which is $5 000, and or up to one year in prison for “exceeding noise standards” set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) at both residential and industrial areas.
WHO stipulates that noise should not exceed 55 decibels during the day and should be less than 35 dB (a radio played at moderate volume) at night in residential areas.
EMA would be using the guidelines to ensure minimum standards to be prescribed for the emissions of noise and vibration pollution into the environment as are necessary to preserve and maintain public health and the environment.
In an interview yesterday, EMA director Mr Aaron Chigona said the Statutory Instrument was likely to be operational by early next year. He said the decision had been arrived at after health experts and environmentalists determined that high levels of noise were detrimental to health and the environment.
“We expected the SI to be operational by the end of the year, but we need to consult stakeholders before finalising the process. We will soon be flighting notices in newspapers and other media, inviting members of the public and organisations to give their input for the final draft. The instrument should be operational in the first quarter of next year,” said Mr Chigona.
He said at present, people who make noise for neighbours were fined by the police.
“We will work with the police to strictly enforce the regulations once they come into effect. The fines will depend on the number of times a person or organisation has been caught on the wrong side of the law and the level by which they exceeded set limits,” he said.
Mr Chigona said stakeholders should attend consultation meetings, as they would determine how the SI would be enforced.
“The meetings are very important because they will be used to decide how issues are dealt with. We will discuss wide ranging issues that include industrial noise and social noise like neighbours having a party or noise from stadia during soccer matches or concerts,” said the EMA director.
Mr Chigona said noise pollution laws were being enforced in most countries of the world and Zimbabwe was simply doing what should have been done long time ago. He said the law had been in existence in Zimbabwe for more than five years but there had been no Statutory Instrument to support its enforcement.
Mr Chigona said for unavoidable loud noise, section 81 of Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) provides special exemption.
“Subsection 1 of Section 81 allows the EMA Board to grant temporary permits not exceeding three months, allowing emission of noise in excess of established standards for such activities as fireworks, demolitions, firing ranges and specific heavy industry undertakings on such terms and conditions as the Board may determine,” he said.
The EMA director said section 81 (2) decrees that for any exemption granted under subsection (1), workers exposed to excessive levels of noise should be adequately protected in accordance with prescribed measures or the directives issued by the board.