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Noise level regulations

The Noise Abatement Society of Malta is calling on the government to implement regulations, drafted in 2012, which had established noise level guidelines for residential, industrial and entertainment establishments. They provided for fines of up to €250,000 for transgressors.

When replying to a parliamentary question, the Minister for Home Affairs said the police had no equipment capable of measuring the decibel level of music and, astonishingly, that there was no law to regulate sound levels.

The Noise Abatement Society disputes the minister’s version of the law. It has pointed out there are various pieces of legislation in place that specify noise levels to be observed. Whether it is the exhaust sound level for vehicle roadworthiness, workplace noise or recreational craft, laws governing such areas establish decibel levels that must not be exceeded. However, the law fails to lay down the assessment method to be used to control noise.

As for disturbance generated by entertainment establishments, particularly music, the society pointedly highlighted that, in December 2012, regulations intended to prevent and control neighbourhood noise, including residential, occupational and outdoor activities, were drawn up but never implemented because no legal notice was ever published to bring them into force.

When Labour was returned to power in 2013, a fresh attempt was made to regulate noise levels based on the same framework as before but the process stalled. Moreover, the society noted that the noise level guidelines that had previously been agreed upon and established were removed from the version of the guidelines circulated by the new administration, rendering the proposed law toothless.

The issue is one of political will. To re-establish a commission – as the Environment Minister has just done – to study the issue of noise pollution and propose a legislative framework is simply to procrastinate, a means to avoid confronting an issue that will affect powerful commercial interests.

The fact is the relevant legislation already exists. There is therefore no reason for the issue to be left to moulder. A long-suffering public that has had to endure the adverse effects on their health and the environment of every kind of noisy modern contrivance would greatly welcome action on this front. In this densely-populated island, one is assailed everywhere by noise, never more so than in the summer when the village feasts and outdoor music entertainment rend the air.

Noise pollution in Malta is a grave and pressing issue, which is having a deleterious effect on people’s mental and physical well-being and quality of life. A review last year by the noise abatement society of the noise generated by St George’s Bay entertainment establishments recorded levels of noise at different times of the evening that were more than 33 per cent higher than those the World Health Organisation considered the absolute limit in residential areas.

It is the Environment Minister’s duty to summon up the political will to deal with the problem. Ensuring the police purchase the equipment they need must go in tandem with the passing of the relevant laws.

As part of the legislation, the minister should also set up a noise control board made up of representatives from the various authorities to be responsible for monitoring the situation and ensuring the regulations are applied fairly and in line with best practice.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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