NEMA, Born Again Christian Church in Uganda agree on noise management

Some of the suspects appear in the dock at Buganda Road Court where they were charged with noise pollution. (Courtesy photo)

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has agreed with Born Again Christian leadership on measures to regulate noise pollution generated by the churches during their services.

The agreement follows the Born Again Christian leadership’s petition to NEMA complaining about rampant arrests and prosecution of their members regarding noise pollution citing several arrests and prosecutions of suspects for noise pollution.

In a meeting chaired by NEMA Executive Director, Dr Barirega Akankwahas and members of the Born Again Faith led by the President of the National Pastors Platform of Uganda, Mr David Kiganda, it was agreed that there shall not be any arrest made for noise pollution unless an improvement notice has been first issued in writing by either NEMA, Urban Authority or Local Government and that churches will designate focal persons for coordinating environment compliance issues including noise management.

In the same meeting, it was agreed that government will through NEMA, undertake scientific review of the standards for noise to establish whether the standards in place today are appropriate, arrests should be preceded with criminal summons and no arrests should be effected during a church service and also NEMA will work with the Church leadership to sensitise the churches and the general public about noise standards.

The parties agreed that noise meter readings should be transparently recorded and where possible counter-signed by the complainants and the accused person, noise mapping will be undertaken to establish noise pollution levels for different parts starting with Kampala and Wakiso and also measurements for noise should take into consideration the environmental and background noise to ensure that the readings taken are attributable to the entity complained against.

Dr Akankwasah told Born Again Christians that NEMA is there to implement the law and that self-regulation was the most effective approach to implement the law.

The two parties resolved to strengthen the working relationship including regular engagements to effectively prevent noise pollution and promote best environment practices through the Church.

Ever since resumption of public gatherings following Covid-19 related restrictions, complaints about noise pollution mainly from religious gatherings and recreation areas particularly bars, have increased across the country.

Acting within the law, NEMA started operations to regulate noise pollution resulting in the Born Again Christian leadership petitioning NEMA about rampant arrests and prosecution of their members regarding noise pollution.

In order to have a harmonious coexistence and the need to have Church leadership work with NEMA to regulate the noise pollution, a meeting was convened with Pastors first, to address their complaints related to what they regarded as rampant arrests, confiscation of equipment and disruption of church services, discrimination regarding enforcement, use of environmental law to settle land disputes, faith disputes, community conflicts, definition of noise pollution threatening their faith, the law being harsh with big punishments and needing review among many other complaints.

In June this year, two pastors and three bar proprietors were sent on remand after they were apprehended and arraigned in court on charges of noise pollution.

The pastors included Edward Mukisa and Herman Ssebunje from Nkumba Miracle Centre in Bendegere village, Katabi town council in Wakiso district while the owners of Hide Our Bar and Lounge in Kololo; Sisay Beruke, Tigsti Melkamu and Steven Ssetumba were also remanded by Buganda Road Chief Magistrate.

The law

The law requires establishments such as places of worship, recreational and production activities either submit project briefs or undertake environmental and social impact assessment to enable relevant authorities to ensure that aspects of the environment including noise, air and water pollution are not compromised.

Suspects face a fine not exceeding 50,000 currency points an equivalent of Shs1billion or a maximum jail term of 15 years, or both.

The law states that the permissible noise level is of 60 decibels during the day and 40 decibels in the night for places of worship in residential areas.

The law defines daytime as running from 6am to 10pm and night hours as running from 10pm to 6am.

The National Environmental (Noise Standards and Control) Regulations, 2003, defines noise pollution as the release of uncontrolled noise that is likely to cause danger to human beings or damage to the environment.


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