Noise ban order becomes tool in dispute resolution

( Updated : 2022-06-11

Just two days after applying for a noise ban from a court, a man surnamed Wang, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, regained his long-lost peace and quiet.

Wang used the ban-a new measure to mitigate noise pollution-because he could no longer bear the strange noises made by his neighbor, surnamed Li.

According to Wang, the noises, which sounded like ghosts and monsters cavorting in the wild, started coming from Li's apartment at the end of 2018. At first, Wang did not notice as he was at work during the day. But early this year, when Wang began working from home and his daughter began online classes due to the epidemic, he found the weird sounds more obvious and they began seriously affecting his life.

He complained about the problem to local government agencies, but the administrations said that the decibel level did not meet the standard for punishment, even though they were clear and audible.

To stop the noise and avoid exacerbating the dispute, Wang submitted a ban application to the Haizhu District People's Court in Guangzhou on April 13 before he formally initiated a lawsuit.

Such bans can cover air, water, noise and natural resource pollution, and are a new measure to solve environmental disputes in addition to trial and administrative punishment.

A day after receiving the application, the Guangzhou court issued the ban in favor of Wang.

After further investigation, the court found Li had originally made the noise to irritate a man surnamed Zhao next door, as Zhao's rain shelter blocked Li's home CCTV camera. To Li's surprise, Zhao was hard of hearing, so the noise did not affect him but did his other neighbors, including Wang.

After the judges' persuasion and mediation, Li reached an agreement with Zhao, and Li stopped playing the noises on April 15.

Hu Jing, a law professor from China University of Political Science and Law, said that applying for such a ban, compared with initiating a lawsuit, makes it easier for residents to solve disputes and also helps courts save costs.

Besides administrative punishment and litigation, "the ban order provides us with a new way to say 'no' to polluters and protect our civil rights", Hu said.

According to the top court, the number of complaints involving noise pollution on a national environmental complaint platform in 2020 was second only to air pollution, and over 7,700 court rulings related to noise pollution were handed down from 2018 to last year.

Courts across the country heard more than 297,000 environmental disputes last year, up 9 percent year-on-year, the top court said.