Hong Kong's noise pollution laws are outdated and should be revamped, environmentalists say.
'The law is too old to reflect our aspirations for better and healthy living,' Green Power chief executive Dr Man Chi-sum said. 'It needs to be revamped, despite it being considered as a low priority by the government.'
Enacted in 1988, just two years after the Environmental Protection Department was set up, the law is the only tool officials have to control noise and was framed when the city was still a manufacturing base.
What the department can do to regulate noise often depends on who is disturbed. In general, the law only gives it power to handle noise arising from machinery, such as percussive piling, at construction sites.
Objective benchmarks exist for particular types of machinery and measurements of acceptable noise levels for those affected by them.
However, aircraft noise comes under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Department, while noise inside a factory is considered an occupational health issue handled by the Labour Department.
Environmental officials' hands are tied when it comes to the most common noise nuisance, so-called neighbourhood noises such as those created by a television in a flat.
'Instead, it is the duty of the police to step in, but all officers can do is ask the noise maker to stop, and there is no objective noise measurement in this situation,' Man said.
A similar approach applies to noise from commercial buildings. Unless it affected 'noise-sensitive receivers' such as domestic premises or schools, the department could not enforce the law in these places.
A department spokeswoman said the law was not designed to protect commercial and industrial premises because activities in such premises were inherently noisy.
She said the city's definition of noise-sensitive receivers was in line with international practice. 'We do not have a plan to include industrial and commercial premises as noise-sensitive receivers,' she said.