Interesting Anti-Noise Pollution Laws from Around the World

Even though India might still not have started taking noise as seriously as it should be doing, countries around the world, from very early years, have identified noise as a definitive public nuisance that ought to be controlled and regulated. The silence of the roads of many European countries, such as those in Switzerland, can be attributed to the stringent and holistic manner in which the government has focused on building a more “silence-oriented” perceptual approach to everyday life. In this article, we look at some cultures that have had a great amount of success in dealing with the scourge of noise over the years.

The Walsh-Healey Act of 1969, USA

On one hand, while in countries like India where the mere mention of the word “noise” escaped all major legal frameworks introduced and implemented until 2000, nations like USA were already battling the problem in innovative ways. The Walsh-Healey Act of 1969 is an example of how the US government decided to battle noise pollution by placing it smack-dab in the middle of business legislation in general. According to the Act, if an industrial entity is found to be in violation of any major criteria pertaining to noise levels deemed to be above the permissible limit, they would not be liable to partake or enter into any government contracts.

Anti-Noise Law in Ancient Rome in Senatus Consultum, 44 BC

Julius Caesar was one of the first rulers to instate an anti-noise pollution law in the civilized history of man, specifically in the year 44 BC when the Senatus Consultum was released. In an age where motor vehicles were not even imagined yet and major sources of noise due to industrialization only existed within the wild ravings of mad men and pagan shamans, the main culprit against whom the law was passed were horse carts. The actual wording of the law is as follows:

“Henceforward, no wheeled vehicles whatsoever will be allowed within the precincts of the city, from sunrise until the hour before dusk…. Those which shall have entered during the night, and are still within the city at dawn, must halt and stand empty until the appointed hour.”

Street Music was once viewed as a major source of noise pollution in Europe

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

European Laws against Street Music

The ire of anti-noise regulations, for the most part throughout European history, was directed towards street musicians. The problem was perceived to be so important on a legislative level that in Victorian Era London, a new law titled as the “Act for the Better Regulation of Street Music within the Metropolitan Area” was introduced in the year 1864. Similarly, in Northern Ireland, a series of laws, known as the Procession Acts, were passed throughout the 19th century, aimed at ensuring that street music was regulated. The Act even brought into force the “Parade Commission”, which was essentially a group of officials who were given the power to use whatever means they had at their disposal to quell unruly parades and revelries on the streets. In the modern era, the legal perspective towards street music survives in the form of legislations such as those that made performing street music without a license illegal, with the possibility of large fines as well as confiscation of instruments.

The Swiss and their Legal Arsenal against Noise

Some of the most interesting and in fact, funny, laws against noise come from the rich legislative history of Switzerland. Over the years, the Swiss government has passed laws banning and enforcing legal ramifications for everything from shouting and crying on the streets to even barking dogs. In the year 1661, the City of Bern in Switzerland declared that any matter of crying or shouting on the streets during the Sabbath (Sunday) was against the law. In both 1784 as well as 1887 specific laws were instated against the barking of dogs. In the year 1914, laws were introduced that posed legal implications for noisy carpet beating and even noisy children. Over the course of the years, some of the other legal victims of anti-noise pollution in Switzerland have included street vendors who shout to ply their trade, horse carriage drivers who were fined for unnecessary cracking of their whips at night, and even night watchmen!


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