Noisy churches: Pastors call for review of noise pollution regulations

Noisy churches: Pastors call for review of noise pollution regulations
Pastors deliver a sermon during overnight prayers at Nakivubo Stadium in Kampala. COURTESY PHOTO

Kampala, Uganda | URN | A group of Pastors from Kajjansi and Katabi town councils in Wakiso district have called for a review of the regulations on noise pollution. According to the Pastors, the Noise Standards and Control Regulations of 2003 are due for review.

The Pastors expressed their views at a joint media briefing at Bethel Freedom Tabernacle Church in Abaita Ababiri, Katabi town council. At least 40 Pastors attended the press briefing.

This comes weeks after Pastors Edward Mukisa and Herman Ssebunje from Nkumba Miracle Centre in Katabi town council were arrested and charged with noise pollution.

According to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the two Pastors were found conducting service above the permissible level of 60 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night for places of worship in residential areas.

The National Environment Act, 2019 provides a fine not exceeding fifty thousand currency points, the equivalent of Shillings one billion, or a maximum jail term of 15 years, or both  for noise pollution. Ivan Wanda, the lead Pastor at Bethel Tabernacle Church in Abaita Ababiri and Joe Walusimbi, say that the noise regulations should be reviewed and increased to 100 decibels during day and 85 decibels at night for places of worship.

Walusimbi adds that the regulations are unrealistic because they for instance did not consider the inability of Pastors and communities to set up soundproofed buildings because most worshippers are low income earners or live below the poverty line.

Wanda and Walusimbi also accused NEMA of selective application of the law.

Wanda accused NEMA of having an ulterior motive, saying someone or individuals want to use the regulations to curtail freedom of worship and are targeting certain Pastors under the disguise of enforcement against noise pollution.

The Pastors also questioned NEMA’s method of measuring the noise levels and tools used.

NEMA responds

Tony Acidria, the senior public relations officer at NEMA says that every Ugandan has a right to go to court when aggrieved. He explains that the Noise Standards and Control Regulations were finalized after consulting relevant stakeholders and came into effect in 2003, which is almost 20 years ago.

Acidria adds, the 1995 Uganda Constitution provides that every person in Uganda has a right to a clean and healthy environment and that every person has a duty to create, maintain and enhance the environment, including the duty to prevent pollution (noise inclusive).

As a result, he says the key issue is that noise has to be regulated. “The National Environment Act lists places of worship among those that require mandatory project briefs or Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to be undertaken… It is not only from places of worship where complaints of noise have arisen. There are cases that have been reported from places of entertainment, industrial establishments etc; and NEMA has intervened in many of such cases,” he said.

Read Also: Kiira police embarks on registration of Pastors following child sacrifice

Acidria explains that Walusimbi and Wanda among other complainants “cannot propose to a regulator, which aspect to regulate and which one to ignore in favor of another (noise vs wetlands)” He also said that the pastors should know that NEMA officials use noise meters that are of international standard and calibrated to take readings.

“The equipment we use is not manufactured by NEMA to target specific institutions. If anything we also encourage establishments to have their own noise meters so that they are able to monitor and have their own records and compare readings with those of our inspectors when they come on-site,” he said.

Acidria said that NEMA will engage the pastors over the matter. “It is evident that there is a need for more public education and awareness in regard to noise pollution and NEMA shall reach out to them for productive engagements,” he said.