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Sierra Leone News: Noise in the City of Freetown – At what cost?

Now, if you’re one of those who cynically think that noise pollution sounds like a hyperbole coined by the ‘West’ to scare third world nations into a resignation of an imminent ‘Environmental Armageddon’, think again!
Noise pollution is as real on the streets of Freetown as it is in Lagos, Calcutta and in many other major cities of the world. Choosing to deny it is wholly disingenuous.
Perhaps, we are so oblivious of the devastating consequences that might arise if we simply ignore it. Some would argue that we are probably still in self denial about the strong correlation between noise pollution and general well being. Whatever we think of the noise level in our streets of Freetown today, it is unsustainable.
From the peeling bells of The Portuguese Town Church disturbing the Sunday morning quiet, to the impatient taxi driver hooting at a herd of cattle sluggishly pacing their way to their next pasture along Kissy Road, the evidence of noise pollution pokes you in the ears. There is noise of all texture and assortment.
Across the road, there is a music studio belching the latest top ten African rhythms from two high wattage speakers, strategically positioned to maximize volume- and it is only 9.45pm. Well, I catch myself tapping to the beat, ‘Na financial woman be dat oh’.
Walking across the road , adjacent ‘Starco Cinema’, is a lone street  hawker with a few fluffy face towels dangling mercilessly on his left arm, and a screeching sub -standard megaphone  on his right, bellowing the most unbearable monotony of a ‘one liner advert’. It is worse than a broken record. “Mama, Papa – nar Mr. Confidence ice cream ar want.”  Seriously, if this was designed to irritate, it scores incredibly highly on that front. It is such a drole.
All around me is an unrelenting cacophony of sounds ranging from the most irritating to the mildly endearing and receptive to the ears.
Well, the Okada bikers seem to have developed a mastery of revving their engines at varying decibels of irritation and their hooting is anything but sparing. Their horns seem to emit a plethora of sounds ranging from a muted screech (if you’re lucky), to the outlandishly revolting.
They hoot to warn the tiny poppy having a nap in the corner of the road of their imminent approach, hoot to salute a long lost friend travelling on a bike in the opposite direction, hoot to attract pedestrians and potential passengers that they are available for custom, and  I dare say, hoot to assert their irrevocable right to hoot. They are ‘lord’ of everything that moves in this tiny patch of land. Certainly, a law unto themselves.
Then, there is the tolerated wail of the ambulance sirens, responding in their duty of care , in the midst of unprecedented gridlock. Often, the high pitched sirens sound like the fire alarm you hear in a hospital complex, inadvertently triggered. You think – this can’t be real! Accompanied by the wishful thinking that it should suddenly ‘shut up’ for sanity and quiet to return.  Then again – it’s wishful thinking.
I walked a couple of meters towards the junction of Bombay Street and Kissy Road. There are clusters of youths, ‘hanging out’ over a board game. There are about ten of them. From a distance, you could decipher every word they’re saying, literally every word! They are bellowing at the top of their voices. Their animated gestures deceptively suggest a brawl. You’re wrong! This is what passes for a ‘gentleman’s conversation’ here. About eight of them are all talking simultaneously. You wonder if anyone is listening. It’s a competition of raised voices. Well, you guessed right! It’s the post match analysis between Manchester United and Real Madrid!
So, what’s my ‘beef’? This catalogue of high pitched resonance is inescapable. But does it have to be like this? I think we need to sensitize and educate the nation that the level of noise in our city is untenable. We need to explore all avenues to limit and minimize the noise level in our city, wherever it happens. From the erratic hooting of horns by taxis to two barking dogs squabbling over a bone in the middle of the night. We need to explore a better and more civil way of conducting ourselves. A nation that realizes that reducing the noise level in our city has both a social and health benefit for all, is a nation that takes well being pretty seriously.
By Patrick John
Thursday August 10, 2017.

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