Understanding the Law
April 21, 2006
Consider the effect of smoke on your neighbours

I am diverting from my usual topic to make an appeal for clean air. Some time ago we looked at the issue of nuisance and it was mentioned that a nuisance emanating from our neighbour’s land may deny us the enjoyment of our own land. Vincentians are not a contentious people and they exercise great forbearance in many matters, otherwise the courts would have been cluttered with cases of nuisance. It is only in extreme cases that most seek the services of the court. {{more}} They show concern and respect for their neighbours and expect their neighbours to reciprocate. If one draws the matter to the attention of the wrongdoer, perhaps there would be an abatement of the nuisance.

Quite a great deal has been said about cigarette smoking and the effect of tobacco smoke on the lungs of active and passive smokers. We will, however, devote this article to concerns about the smoke that is created when persons light fires or burn coal pits in their back yards, or that which emanates from vehicles on the road.

Smoke is unhealthy; it is stifling and uncomfortable. It causes sore eyes, tears, coughs and runny noses. It can aggravate conditions of the respiratory tract, such as asthma. Smoke contaminates and pollutes the atmosphere. Those persons who live near to busy roads can speak of the black grime that comes from the exhaust of vehicles and discolors their curtains.

Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles. It is said that the biggest health threat comes from the fine particles. These particles are usually trapped by the hair in our nostrils, but some will still get into our lungs. Could you imagine our lungs with this soot?

We are usually very concerned with preventing contaminants from entering the water that we drink, and rightly so. But we need to pay more attention to the pollutants that we breathe into our lungs. Whenever we attempt to light a fire we must remember that “lungs are at work” in the neighbourhood and that only clean air should enter our bodies.

A trip to the Accident and Emergency Department of the hospital will bring home to us quite vividly, the need for clean air. The asthma bays are filled with persons seeking assistance from the medical personnel to enable them to breathe more easily.

We can help to promote clean air by not lighting too many fires. Burning waste material on our properties should be a last resort. There are other ways of getting rid of household and yard waste without lighting a fire. The solid waste management programme extends to almost every area in SVG. It would not be difficult to find out the days when the truck comes into one’s area. Dead plants and leaves could be placed in a compost heap. The manure that is obtained from it could be used for vegetable or flower gardens. It could be given or sold to others in the community. Coconut husks are no longer dumped; the manure obtained is sold on the local market.

Do your part; do not cause smoke. If the stuff you burn is not properly dried the smoke would be even denser. Remember you would be either making your neighbours prisoners in their own home or causing them to find refuge elsewhere.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com