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Noise Pollution: Govt. Threatens To Close More Churches, Mosques

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*Loud Sound Has Negative Impact On Human Health, Ecosystems – WHO

*Muslims Not Allowed To Disturb Peace With Religion- Ansar-Ud-Deen

*We’re Sensitising Our Members On Compliance- CAN

Oyinkan Somorin; Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

Noise pollution is a global trend that cuts across both developed and third world countries. According to research, loud sound can have a significant impact on human health, as well as causing devastating damages to the ecosystem. It is also a fact that noise pollution can lead to dementia and depression.

Countries such as India, Japan, Spain, and Brazil top the list of the nosiest countries generating noise mainly from traffic. Guangzhou, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Istanbul, Cologne, Portland, Amsterdam, and Beijing are also considered as some of the nosiest cities in the world.

In 2014, Spain was identified as the noisiest country in the world by the First National Congress against Noise, a body made up of experts such as Lawyers, Engineers, and Health Psychologists.

The organisation was trying to highlight the negative effect of noise pollution on quality lifestyle when it reached the conclusion.

One of the biggest problems associated with noise pollution is that it contributes to hearing loss.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. Interestingly, 32 million of these people are children.

While Nigerians endure a great deal of noise from traffic and generators, an emerging and unusual source of noise is now churches and mosques.

In Lagos, one of the biggest commercial cities of Nigeria, noise from the loudspeakers of churches and mosques appears to supersede that from generating sets, trains, and even airplanes landing in airports.

The theory also applies to other states of the country.

Randomly, the average church or mosque in a specific location uses speakers of over 120 decibels, thereby making the environment where they are located a dangerous place to reside in.

The situation is better appreciated in the words of the General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Dr. Dolapo Fasawe when she said:

“The illegal and unauthorised conversion of residential properties for religious use without recourse to the wellbeing of other residents and the state of the environment is of great concern to the present administration.

“The state government recognises the fact that the state thrives on peaceful co-existence among practitioners of the major religions across the state, but of great concern to the state government is the need for religious activities to be conducted in a manner that worshippers and citizens would not infringe on each other’s rights.

“Those recalcitrant organisations or worship centers known to be disturbing the peace of Lagosians would face the full wrath of the law.”

Dr. Fasawe made this statement after her agency sealed off eight religious outlets comprising of mosques and churches across the state for persistent environmental pollution and disruption of the peaceful co-existence of residents of the state.

The implication of noise pollution on human health is emphasised by the Executive Chairman of Agege Local Government, Alhaji Ganiyu Kola Egunjobi.

Demanding compensation for noise pollution from the Lagos State Domestic Airport and Muritala Muhammed Local Airport, Muritala said noise from the airports is disturbing and endangering the health of people within the area.

“I desire that our noisy neighbours, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and Bi-Courtney periodically pay a certain amount to this council to improve its healthcare system as compensation for the serious noise pollution the operations of Lagos Airport and MM2 are causing in this local government.

“Planes flying over our houses at close quarters every day has serious health implications on residents of this area. It affects our quality of life, disturbs our sleep, causes stress-related illnesses like hypertension, high blood pressure and hearing loss.

“We may not have figures but some of our people are having health issues occasioned by the activities of the two airports,” he explained.

Interestingly, the situation has not been helped by the position of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that noise pollution tops environmental risk to health, as Dr. Fasawe revealed that before the sealing of the churches and mosques, the administrators had been warned.

Mohammed Olanrewaju (not real name) is a Journalist who resides at Ilasamaja area of Lagos State. Sharing his experience from living close to a mosque with Saturday INDEPENDENT, he narrated how he petitioned LASEPA in 2016, how the agency warned the mosque whose public address system was facing his apartment. Olanrewaju revealed that though there was an initial reduction in the noise when he petitioned the environmental agency and the mosque was warned, years later it was back to the basic, and this time, in full force, making him petition the agency again before he eventually gave up and moved out of the apartment.

“There is a mosque two houses away from mine and one of their speakers is directly facing my apartment. The noise blaring from that speaker could make a man deaf. I’m wondering how I have been able to cope. The decibel is so terrible that we complained to the Imam who said his religion allows him to disturb our peace as his preaching must be heard by other Muslim faithful who may not go to the mosque to pray no matter how far they live. We made him understand that he is gradually killing us. That both old and young including a two month old baby cannot sleep anytime they begin their unusually long prayers. He refused. We had no other option than to report the matter at the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA).”

Chairman, Lagos State Council, Ansar-Ud-Deen  Society of Nigeria, Alhaji Abdulrahman Olabode Saludeen made a case for mosque who uses the speaker for call to prayer. According to him, because the call to prayer does not extend beyond some minutes, it does not qualify as noise pollution.

“As true Muslims, we don’t make excessive noises to the extent of being a nuisance to those around us. The issue on the call to prayer cannot be referred to as noise pollution because there is a limitation to it. Call to prayers in the morning is averagely within three to four minutes which to me is not noise pollution. Noise pollution is when the noise goes on for hours non-stop. This is common with both Muslims and Christians when they have their vigil and they start making noise from 12 midnight till four in the morning. That you can call noise pollution because it is disturbing to the hearing and people will want to sleep, but in the Muslim doctrine, we don’t use our prayers to disturb other people’s rest. It is uncalled for, even during the day when we observe our afternoon prayers, all sermon, prayers, and worship are done within the mosque and not to inconvenience anybody. If you don’t enter the mosque you will not even know prayers are going on there and this is because speakers are not visible outside the mosque.”

While the Lagos State government is not handling noise pollution with kid gloves, many have said that its effort via LASEPA could be likened to a drop of water in an ocean, especially with a population of almost 20 million.

Mrs. Bello Ajayi, a resident of Ayobo, a suburb in Lagos State agrees. According to her, the Lagos State government is not enforcing its environmental laws adequately. She wondered why there are no hotlines to call for enforcement of such laws when they are infringed on. She said in developed countries, churches and mosques are generally not allowed in residential areas. There are strict laws against putting loudspeakers and public address systems outside. She wonders why the same cannot happen in Nigeria.

“I don’t want to be looked like someone’s enemy, but people should know that a residential area is not a party ground. Disturbing your fellow neighbour all because you are happy is not a fair thing to do at all. You don’t know what the other person is passing through at that moment in time. Maybe, the person had a stressful day at work and wants to come home to peace, but unfortunately comes home to more noise from the neighbour, it’s unfair. Some people live two streets away from you, but because they are throwing a party you would hear their music from miles away. Some Nigerians are not educated at all and you dare not talk to them about the noise because that would bring another round of insults. In times like this, I always wish that the state government has a number that people can call when such inconveniences occur.”

Apostle Alexander Bamgbola, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos Chapter endorsed the law against noise pollution, adding that they are encouraging their members to do the same.

“Lagos State CAN is absolutely against noise pollution, and we have been sensitising our members on the need to obey the laws of the land. And as the umbrella body of all Christians in Lagos, we expect LASEPA, and other government agencies to always communicate to the foremost Christian bodies on actions to be taken, affecting the church.”

On his part, Pastor Michael Oduahga, a cleric at Living Light Church, Alimosho, Lagos State said noise pollution is not caused by churches or mosques, but by people who claim that they are anti-God and want to shut down religion, which will never be possible.

“The law implementing noise pollution has been passed some few years back, but everyone knows it has not been effective because it was done out of bias. Religious houses have nothing to do with noise pollution because we are doing what we were sent to do from God. People who claim the religious houses cause noise pollution are anti-God people who are trying to do their best to reduce the work of God, but that would never be possible. Instead of concentrating on religion, why don’t the government look at noises that come from generators and plants from houses, offices and big companies? Even the smoke of these generators is dangerous to one’s health.

“My advice to people who claim religious houses are part of major sources of noise pollution is for them to leave the religious houses alone and let the government restore constant power supply because without that there would be constant noise pollution, especially at night. Another thing is the use of horns and sirens. I went to the ATM one day to get some money. I didn’t even notice the bullion van carrying money from the bank until it sounded its siren, which almost caused me a heart attack. That is a serious example of noise pollution.”

Dr. Uchenwa Ezemba of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UTCH), confirmed the health risks attached to constant exposure to noise. According to her, constant annoyance and aggression may be traced to persistent exposure to noise, a condition she has observed among many commuters.

Dr. Ezenwa further noted that: “High levels of noise can contribute to cardiovascular problems and exposure to moderately high levels during a single eight hour period causes a statistical rise in blood pressure of five to ten points and can increase stress.”

Director of UCL Ear Institute and Professor of Cell Biology, Jonathan Gale, confirms Dr. Ezenwa’s position on the health implication of noise pollution. “Exposure to environmental noise can result in hearing loss that can cause social isolation and an impact on health and well-being. Both the level and duration of exposure are important factors.

“However we know much less about the effects of exposure to low levels of environmental noise over long periods. We think such noise is unlikely to affect our sensory hair cells (in our ears) but may well affect our brain processes and possibly our mental health.”

While there seem no solutions yet for noise pollution, experts have recommended building sound barriers in residential areas with main roads nearby, while a total ban of building houses near airports have also been suggested. Advocacy campaigns on the hazards of noise pollution will also go a long way, as the battle against the menace takes proper shape in Africa, and the world.

 

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