“It is not worth the trouble buying or even owning property in Kololo. It has become a mess during the night. Tuesdays, Thursday and the weekend are the worst.”
Traffic jam through Kololo
KOLOLO NOISE POLLUTION
The door rattles. From across the valley, blaring music reverberates into his third-floor apartment. It is about 1:00am on a Friday night.
Ramesh Masrani is sitting at his balcony when Saturday Vision team arrives at his residence.
"It is useless to go to bed. You cannot sleep. The music grows louder with each hour. And the doors and my furniture vibrate," says Masrani.
"It is not worth the trouble buying or even owning property in Kololo. It has become a mess during the night. Tuesdays, Thursday and the weekend are the worst."
With the mushrooming bars in this high-class suburb and noisy nightlife, landlords are counting losses. "Someone stays here for a night, and the next day they leave because they can't bear the noise. There is no business for us," says Ruth, a staff at Athina Club House on Windsor Avenue, which has 10 accommodation rooms.
The LC 1 chairperson Martin Aroma also cites a number of vacant buildings in Kololo whose owners have either relocated or failed to get tenants over similar complaints.
"Those who got mortgages to build and rent the houses out, are hurting most. Tenants are nowhere. How do you recover that?" he says pointing to a visibly vacant storeyed building.
Saturday Vision saw some residential houses -Plots 6, 8 and 2 on Somero Road - all located next to bars. Plot 2 particularly shares a wall with a pub.
"This is not a place you can raise your children. How did anyone allow this to happen, without anyone asking us, the residents?" wonders Aroma.
Some people worry that there could be a deliberate plan by the mafia in government to push them out of Kololo. "Buyers come to your door all the time. When you say you don't want to sell, the next thing you know there is a noisy bar next to you," says a property owner.
Sunday Vision recently visited this leafy suburb on random occasions. During daytime, Kololo looks like the safe haven - plush homes accentuated with, high wall fences, well-manicured lawns and lush trees. It is also home to many embassies, offices and lavish hotels. However, behind this façade lies a dirty secret.
There are empty bottles and glasses littered on the green pavements, and tyre-skidding marks, perhaps an indication of drivers struggling to find parking space the previous night.
"These bars don't have parking spaces so the partygoers park at our gates or in the road," says Aroma. That probably explains why some homeowners have put up bold warnings on their gates fending off motorists.
A 2:00am drive through the Lower Acacia Avenue, where most of the high-end bars - like Bubbles, Big Mike, Waves and Atmosphere - are located, speaks columes. Cars are moving bumper-to-bumper, their horns constantly hooting.
The loud music and cheering rooftop bars, echoes through the air in a recurring nuisance. Prostitutes congregate in this area, aggressively seducing anyone who approaches the premises. Crowds of youthful revelers stagger out and about the streets; sipping at their beer bottles, without a bother in the world. A stench of smoke hangs in the air.
It is hard to drive through the maze to the nearby Kampala Hospital and surrounding premises. "People park anyhow; you cannot locate the owner of the car. Either they are drunk or lost in the crowds. God forbid if you have an expectant mother in labour!" says a trapped motorist.
Back in his house at Kitante Hill School quarters, LC chairperson Aroma receives distress phone calls from angry residents. "They call me at night complaining that I should tell the bar managers to stop the noise. I go there; they reduce. By the time I walk back uphill, they have increased the volume again," says Aroma, shaking his head.
The imposing Kabojja Junior School is right in the backyard of Bubbles and Big Mike. From the topmost floor, one can see everything as it unfolds. "We are lucky that it is a day-only school. But parents who drop off children as early as 6:00am see it all," says Abdu Sseruga, a parent and local security official.
"They party goes on until about 8:00am sometimes. Half naked and drunken people are all over this place, even in the morning, yelling obscenities and sometimes fighting," says Yohannes Alaza, an administrator in one of the apartments. He adds that most of his apartments are empty because of the noise.
Uganda's Ambassador to Italy, Mumtaz Kassam, who is also a resident in Kololo says she switches on the radio to keep her company until the wee hours of the morning.
"At midnight, it is when it all starts. You catch some sleep at about 5:30am, when they close," she says. Kassam has lived in Kololo suburb for the last 30 years. When she first acquired property here, it was peaceful and generally quiet. However, in the last few years, she has seen Kololo quickly change into something else.
"One night, I couldn't bear it. I walked to the nearby bar at 3:00am, and asked them to switch off," she recounts. "But I cannot do that all the time. It is not even safe. You worry about bumping into the drunken people and drug addicts smoking on the street," Kassam adds
"My father, who is 63, keeps changing rooms. He sleeps in the guest room, where the noise is less. I am concerned that this could take a toll on his health," says Shradda, a resident and a medical chemist by profession. "We wake up to go to work with sleepy eyes."
Prince Charles Drive, one of the roads through Kololo
How much noise is too much?
Against this background, residents have sued a cluster of businesses, including H20 Bar, Casablanca Pub, Big Mike, Bubbles O'Leary's, Atmosphere Bar, and Wave Lounge, among others. Saturday Vision has learnt that the High Court civil division court is set for the first hearing soon.
Through their lawyers Signum Advocates, the residents claim that the businesses violate their rights to a clean and healthy environment by emitting noise beyond the maximum permissible levels.
The complainants accuse the defendants of hosting music concerts, playing loud music, late night parties. The case file number is 153/2018. The suit follows failure by the parties to reach a consent settlement on November 30, 2018.
Information seen by Saturday Vision shows that the Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) undertook an inspection the said businesses, on different occasions and found the noise beyond legally acceptable levels.
A memorandum dated October 29 2018, by the Director of Public Health and Environment Dr. Ayen Daniel Okello details the noise pollution assessments done at seven different bars in Kololo on three consecutive days- from October 25 to October 27, 2018.
The noise was measured at least 15 meters away from the respective facilities. Details reveal that the assessments all registered noise levels, as high as 70 Decibels. According to 2003 National Environment Noise Standards Regulations, an entertainment place in a residential area should not exceed 40 decibels.
Dr. Okello, in his report concludes that although the noise pollution problem still exists at Kololo-Acacia Avenue, there has been a reduction in the Decibels being emitted by the various facility owners.
However, residents are having none of that. In an earlier October 8, 2018 petition to KCCA's executive director, they argue that the noise pollution contravenes the covenants in their lease terms with KCCA.
"KCCA charges ground rent in respect to leases to residents…The leases have explicit covenants to suffer noxious noise or offensive trade business occupation…It is apparent that landlords of businesses operating in residences are in breach of this covenant and KCCA has not acted," the petition, signed by 139 heads of families says.
Aroma reveals that some embassies have also separately filed complaints with city authorities.
Health and social consequences
Noise pollution is not just annoying. According to the World Health Organisation, it is responsible for a range of health effects, including increased risk of heart disease; sleep disturbance, intellectual impairment among children and stress-related mental health risks among others.
Dr. Jonathan Oryema, a physician in private practice also says some studies have linked noise pollution to Alzheimer disease, a form of dementia that affects one's memory and their ability to think.
"This deteriorates over time and affects every aspect of a person's everyday life. Noise also increases the occurrence of diseases such as headache permanently damage hearing, blood pressure and eventually heart failure. It is also a problem especially for patients who need rest," explains Oryema
In the petition, the residents say street parking disrupts users of surrounding streets and pedestrian walkways, including fatal accidents. They also complain of prostitution and drug abuse in the residential area.
However, Kampala deputy metropolitan police Luke Owoyesigire said they had registered a few cases of petty crime arising out of Kololo's nightlife. "Kololo is generally peaceful, except for one notorious pickpocket we arrested recently. He would steal from motorists during traffic jam. We have also registered a few incidents of bar fights especially from DNA bar. The other cases are public smoking," Owoyesigire said.
Kololo is no stranger to crime news. In on December 15, 2014, the Police told the media that two suspected thugs, who allegedly attempted to break into a bank near Acacia Avenue, have been shot dead by security guards. On April 5, 2017, the Police also revealed that a tycoon in Kololo reportedly shot his suspected criminal at his home on Kaggwa Close at 4:00am.
Ownership and legality?
Although officials are tightlipped on the ownership and legality of these bars, sources told Saturday Vision that only 32 out of over 100 bars in Kololo are licensed by KCCA.
Our investigations reveal that the landlords of some of the contested facilities are Mandakini Munubhai and Toshak Patel (Casablanca Pub), Winnie Byanyima (H20 Bar), Eleazar Mugyenyi Kasimbazi (Wave Laounge) and Meera Investments which hosts Bubbles, Atmosphere and Big Mikes pubs.
The bar managers however, deny any wrong doing. Patson Kushaba the CEO and General Manager Bubbles O'learys said that the club is one of the oldest in Kololo. He however, said their pub was not among those playing loud music.
"The complaints are genuine but our club is not party to the noise. We have put measure in place to prevent this in order to take responsibility and live in harmony with our neighbors," he says.
"We have put sound proof walls, and the dance floor is inside one of the buildings, allowing only one speaker outside in the open to play cool music for those sitting outside," says Kushaba
Kushaba says that Bubbles is built 40 feet below the normal ground level. Big Mike, on the other hand is on top of one of the structures housing the dance floor for Bubbles. "Therefore, the complaints are general but we should be excluded," says Kushaba
Efforts to get a comment from Big Mike and the nearby Atmosphere were futile. At H20, the manager only identified as Aaron said that Kololo was both a residential and commercial area and therefore the residents should learn to live with it.
At the Wave Lounge, press inquiries were greeted with hostility. "It is my business and not of any concern to you journalists," an employee said before standing to leave. Other bars notorious for noise include Hide Out near Lugogo bypass and Indian Dhaba on Wampewo Avenue. We could not get their managers by press time.
Authorities speak out
The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) senior public relations officer, Tony Achidria, also says Kololo is under the immediate jurisdiction of KCCA.
"The bars that operate within the city are regulated by KCCA, although on several occasions, NEMA has supported them, have confiscated equipment, issued improvement notices and taken perpetrators to court," says Achidria.
He explains further that environmental management is now a decentralized function and appeals to the public to task their respective local governments to act.
"These local governments are the ones that issue operational licenses to such establishments and therefore should be able to regulate them. Licenses should be issues to those that have met required mitigation methods for noise and other environmental issues," says Achidria.
Housing experts say sound proofing a bar takes a lot of effort including investing in audio panels, which are designed to capture and convert the echoes from bar. space.
"Install audio absorbent materials to the walls and ceiling. This can reduce the noise levels by preventing the noise being "bounced" around the premises and beyond," says Rachel Mwesigwa, a civil engineer and proprietor of Tech Consult in Kyambogo, Kampala.
"There are also noise limiters on the market which can be fitted into the speakers. Use noise limiters. Focus the music where it is required - the dance floor, by directing the speakers downwards onto this specific area," says Mwesigwa.
KCCA's Peter Kaujju said he was aware of the complaints on noise pollution in the city. "We have taken up the matter, including impounding equipment of polluters and prosecuting culprits. We will continue to keep a firm hand on polluters infringing on the rights of other city inhabitants," said Kaujju, without divulging details.
Asked why bars are located in a residential area like Kololo, Kaujju says: "Kololo is now mixed use area."
Sources, however, say that the authority is mooting the idea to zone Kololo-Acacia area as a commercial hub. "A series of meetings have been going on to this effect., and the most recent one was on February 6, 2019" says a source.
Section 26 (1) of the Physical Planning act (2010) says every urban or local physical development plan, shall have for its general purpose, orderly, coordinated, harmonious and progressive development of the area to which it relates, in order to promote health, safety, order, amenity, convenience and general welfare of all its inhabitants.
According to Section 21 of the environment regulations, a person who emits noise in excess; fails, neglects or refuses to control noise to permissible levels commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of not more than sh18m, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months, or both.
In July 2013, Kyadondo road-based Emin Pasha Hotel was fined sh20m for noise pollution in its neighbourhood. The ruling against Emin Pasha Limited arose from a suit by 70-year-old window, Ahmad Mahera, who lived adjacent to the premises.
In his ruling, Justice Benjamin Kabiito was satisfied that their damage extended to Mahera in form of noise pollution, destructing her peaceful stay at home, rest and recreation, resulting into poor health, meditation and infringing on her privacy while at home.
In Kenya, it is illegal for bars and nightclub operate near schools and residential areas. This follows last year's ruling by the Kenyan Justice Chacha Mwita that the Constitution gives everyone the right to a clean and healthy environment.
The judge delivered the verdict in an application filed by Muimara Estate Residents Association, accusing Nairobi county of allowing a trader Kariuki Kimiti to operate a bar within their estate, which has young and school going children.