Two pastors remanded over noise pollution

They appeared on Tuesday before the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate on charges of noise pollution and pleaded not guilty

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Two pastors are on remand for noise pollution. The suspects are Pastor Edward Mukisa and Herman Ssebunje from Nkumba Miracle Centre in Bendegere village, Katabi town council, Wakiso district.

They appeared on Tuesday before the Buganda Road Chief Magistrate on charges of noise pollution and pleaded not guilty, according to a June 29th, 2022 statement from National Environmental Management Authority-NEMA.

The environmental body explains that the duo was arrested on Friday last week in the ongoing operation against noise in the country triggered by numerous public complaints. NEMA says that the pastors were charged with “failure to undertake an environmental and social impact assessment, engaging in activities that result in or aggravate pollution, discharging and emitting pollutants into the environment, failure to implement regulatory measures, orders, notices and environmental easements as required by the National Environment Act, 2019.”

Adding that, “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 guide their operations….to ensure that aspects of the environment including noise, air, and water pollution are not compromised.” The pastors face a fine not exceeding fifty thousand currency points, the equivalent of Shillings one billion, or a maximum jail term of 15 years, or both.

NEMA’s senior public relations officer, Tony Acidria, explains that the suspects were arrested for being notorious noise polluters. “They are repeat offenders because the noise levels when measured were above the permissible level of 60 decibels during the day and 40 decibels in the night for places of worship in residential areas.”

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

Acidria says NEMA had severally warned the suspects to control the noise from their church in vain. For instance, on February 15, NEMA officials led by Isaac Mugabi inspected the church and sensitized the pastors and other church administrators about noise pollution. The measurements showed that the church was emitting noise levels in the range of 60 and 86 decibels, above the permissible noise levels.

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When the community complained that the church leaders have failed to control noise levels, NEMA officials inspected the premises on June 24 and arrested the two pastors. During the latest operations, Acidria says that they also impounded some of the loudspeakers from the church.

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