11 March 2002

Uganda: Kampala Drafts Law Against Noise Pollution

A LAW to control the noise levels in Uganda, which have been a major complaint of most investors, has been drafted and only waits passing by parliament.

National Environment Management Authority (Nema) officials say that they expect the law to be in place by June.

According to Nema officials, the Noise Standards and Control Regulations 2001 will soon be sent to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on the Environment chaired by the Prime Minister, Mr Apollo Nsibambi.

The regulations will affect manufacturing industries, stone quarries, discotheques, pubs, and Pentecostal Churches. Operators in these sectors have vowed to resist the regulations, arguing that they would lose business if the law is passed.

"In my business, customers begin flocking in after 11pm and stay till very late. How can I comply with the regulations and not jeopardise my income?" asked Joseph Kato, who runs a discotheque-pub in a Kampala suburb.

A pastor whose church organises bi-weekly prayer nights said he would not comment on the issue before he had read the regulations. He, however, said it would be difficult for his church to stop prayer-nights. "People are suffering and need to pray a lot, but since they work during day, the alternative is to allow them to pray all night," said the pastor, who declined to have his name and church published.

Nema senior legal counsel Mr Robert Wabunoha said the regulations were meant to deal with the excessive noise in the country arising from industrial production, stone quarrying, discotheques, places of worship and vehicle movement.

Mr Wabunoha, however, said it would be difficult to implement and enforce the regulations unless the public co-operated.

"We want anyone who feels affected by noise to report to the Local Councils, the police or Nema; or to bring a court action against the offender," Mr Wabunoha said.

While the court action would be at the expense of those initiating it, Mr Wabunoha explained, it would be affordable because only the cheaper magistrates' courts will be used.

Nema already has in place 110 inspectors who will be in charge of issuing enforcement orders to factories, quarry owners and entertainment places. In addition, Nema is to train Local Council officers and community police officers in enforcing the regulations.

According to the Noise Standards and Control Regulations Act 2001, businesses operating at night must stop playing music at 11pm, or have their equipment confiscated. To avoid this, however, businesses, that expect to make excessive noise are required to apply to Nema for a permit at a yet to be specified fee.

The regulations also prohibit the emission of noise for more than two minutes in a residential area caused by yelling, shouting, pounding, hooting, clapping, singing, whistling or laughing. Advertising or selling by amplified loudspeakers is also outlawed, as is detonation of fireworks or explosive devices during construction.

Those convicted of defying the law or obstructing a Nema inspectors or local council officers from doing their job will be imprisoned for not less than 18 months, or asked to pay a fine of not less than Ush180,000 ($100) and not more than Ush8 million ($4,700) or both.

The regulations, however, make exceptions for funerals, funeral rites, police sirens, and ambulances.

Discotheque and pub owners operating in the suburbs said they would persuade Nema officials to change the noise cut-off hour to 1am.

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