Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Noise pollution violates our rights

Published:Monday | April 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Although, on the books, our citizens are protected by the Constitution and the Noise Abatement Act, the people who 'eat a food' (make a living) through loud events see it as their God-given right to do they choose to do to earn money.

Consequently, several open-air night clubs, sessions, dances and (commercial) parties disturb innumerable others by blaring 'music' at any hour of any day for however long they please.

The Constitution of Jamaica, Chapter III (Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual), states: "Whereas every person in Jamaica is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual ... to each and all of the following, namely life, liberty, security of the person, the enjoyment of property and the protection of the law ... ."


Noisy instrument


And, the Noise Abatement Act states: "Subject to Subsection 2 and Section 5, no person shall, on any private premises or in any public place at any time of day or night, sing, or sound or play upon any musical or noisy instrument; or operate, or permit or cause to be operated, any loudspeaker, microphone or any other device for the amplification of sound, in such a manner that the sound is audible beyond a distance of 100 metres from the source of such sound and is reasonably capable of causing annoyance to persons in the vicinity ... ."

The act goes even further. If permission for a noisy event is granted and even if no one complains about being disturbed, there must be no loud noise between 2 o'clock and 6 o'clock in the morning on Saturday or Sunday and midnight on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Good examples of the trampling of the rights of citizens, the flouting of the Noise Abatement Act, and of the ignorance of the authorities can be found in the experience of the citizens of Hope Pastures. This peaceful middle-class and upper-middle-class community has been repeatedly and mercilessly abused by loud events at the Hope Botanic Gardens and Zoo. The citizens have approached the organisers and promoters and have been promised that the volume and event times would be kept in check. Of course, that didn't last long.

Loud, jarring, community-invading, nerve-shattering noises at all hours, on any day, has replaced the confined sounds of the Sunday afternoon melodious renditions of the Jamaica Military Band, the morning roar of the lonely lion, the musical avian chirping, squawks, calls, whistles and soft rhythmic rustling of the trees in the soothing, lazy early morning breeze. Aside from the trauma to the human neighbours, I wondered how those poor, sensitive, caged zoo animals coped.

Meetings with two relevant authorities ended with the assurance that permits for noisy events would no longer be granted but, that instruction was ignored, defeated or circumvented. And, when the nearby constabulary was called out of desperation, the responding policeman told the plaintive citizen that nothing could be done about it since they had a permit.

But there was no permit, and, in any event, the Noise Abatement Act supersedes a permit if the citizens are being disturbed or if the permissible times are not adhered to. Only a call to a police supervisor saved them from a night of misery. Now they are back to waiting and watching to see what happens next.

Since 1971, the World Health Organization concluded that noise a major threat to our health. Noise is especially damaging to the vulnerable - the children and the elderly. It causes an inability to concentrate (which plays havoc with learning, memory and cognition). It causes insomnia, irritability, fatigue, autonomic dysfunction, increases adrenaline production, hypertension, behavioural problems and anxiety.


CIA interrogators


In March 21, 1993, the FBI besieged the Davidian compound and blasted loud music to discombobulate those inside. CIA interrogators use loud music to disrupt the thoughts of prisoners so that they are unable to plan an escape. It also used loud music to break them.

Loud noise or music is blasted in many areas and at odd times all across Jamaica. Intrusive loud noise decimates our rights and is a major physical and psychological health hazard, but the authorities refuse to take it seriously.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and