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What Governor Sakaja calls music is noise to many city commuters

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja’s support for music in matatu as part of culture is unsound. I have no problem with his position on graffiti. His hypothesis that one should board a matatu that suits his requirements as based on a quote from Salmond’s writing on Torts that ‘he who loves peace and quiet must not live in a locality devoted to business of making boilers or steamships’ is removed from reality.

In my observation, matatu with traumatic and numbing music rarely play it while on the stage. They tune their raw and wild volumes dangerously high while on the move. It was heartening though to hear him condemn obscene and vulgar videos and songs calling for decency and respect in our city public transportation system.

Every person has the right to life under our Constitution. This includes the right to a clean and healthy environment. The right to life under Article 26 is beyond mere animal survival or existence. It guarantees life with human dignity. Any noise which has the effect of significantly interfering with the ordinary comforts of life judged by the standard of a reasonable man offends the right to life.

Disrupting peace and tranquility through loud sound and music has acquired the status of a thorn in the flesh that cuts across sectors, neighbourhoods and counties. Those accused include nightclubs, bars, churches, workshops, construction sites and of course matatu. It’s pointed out that the high volume sound and music result in excessive noise emissions, vibrations and pollution that violates the citizens’ right to a clean and healthy environment.

What’s noise pollution? It can be defined as unwanted or offensive sounds that unreasonably intrude into our daily activities. The probable medical and social health effects of noise pollution are abundant and noteworthy. Excessive noise can cause injury to the body. It inhibits proper attention, communication, leisure and sleep. The collective unsafe effects of noise prejudices health and degrade working, learning, residential and social environments with corresponding economic and comfort losses.

Protection of citizens from injurious and detrimental effects of airborne pollution including those of sound and noise should be the object of any progressive government control measures.

The vested right of the people to choose the nature of their acoustical environment compliments that aim of state. Thus, no one should impose any acoustics on the passengers.

In Kenya noise pollution is currently regulated, mainly by the command and control instruments such as laws, regulations, permits, standards etc. Specifically, The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (Noise and Excessive Vibration pollution) (Control) Regulations; The Factories and other Places of Work (Noise Prevention and Control) Rules, 2005; the Convention Concerning the Protection of Workers against Occupational Hazards in the Working Environment due to Air Pollution, Noise and Vibration, 1977, and the provisions of Sections 55 and 58 of the Traffic Act.

The above regimes appear sufficient to tame the unruly noise menace. But again, these are national legislation. The fourth schedule to the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 has allocated the function of control of air pollution, noise pollution, and public nuisances and outdoor advertising on the devolved county governments. Thus, the hands of bodies like National Environment Management Authority’s (NEMA) are tied. It can only receive reports and complaints of noise, excessive vibrations, and pollution and then forward them to relevant county government offices mandated to control such pollution for necessary action.

The cost of Nairobi Governor’s ambitious deal with over 450 matatu Saccos to transport any uniformed child to school or back home free of charge will be measured on how safe these school children will be transported with some of these matatus that play ear-splitting music.

Mr Sakaja’s noble and generous gesture, calls for the matatu industry to assume a fundamental character in reinforcing the family unity by ensuring children travel far to study and return to their parents.

Dr Oruongo is adjunct lecturer, School of Law, Africa Nazarene University and Visiting Lecturer, School of Law, Kisii University. [email protected]