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July 12, 2014

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Decibel meters deployed in ‘noise wars’ with dancers

DECIBEL meters are being installed in city parks in the latest attempt to control the noise from outdoor dancing gatherings.

The aim is to remind the dancers — who go through their steps to recorded music — to keep the volume down, said park officials.

It will also ensure that dancers and nearby residents who complain know the exact volume, they added.

Outdoor dancing is a popular fitness and social activity among many Chinese, with groups gathering in parks and plazas to dance to everything from traditional Chinese music to the latest pop hits.

Summer is the peak time for “noise wars” as this month 66 Shanghai parks extended opening hours from 5pm or 6pm to 9pm or 10pm, attracting more dancers and karaoke singers.

Nearby residents seeking a peaceful stroll in the cool of the evening say the experience is ruined by blaring music.

At Zhongshan Park in downtown Changning District, a security guard said the decibel meters will remind dancers to turn it down.

Meters have also been installed in Zhabei Park. “These will help prevent disputes over the exact volume,” the Zhabei District Greenery Management Center said.

Dancing in public places has long brought tensions with neighbors in Shanghai and much of China.

Regulations aimed at reducing noise pollution came into effect in Shanghai in March last year.

These prohibit the use of audio equipment with speakers and ban dancers from playing loud music in public areas between 10pm and 6am.

However, in more than a year since the regulations came into effect, there seems to have been little enforcement.

The Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau said there have been no cases of police being alerted.

Instead, park staff usually speak with dancers.

No difference

At Sichuan Road N. Park in Hongkou District, scene of a fierce noise war, nearby residents say the regulations have made no difference.

They complain that there are at least three karaoke spots every night, attracting large audiences and each competing to be the loudest. Adding to the cacophony are numerous dancing groups, they say.

Residents in a nearby complex say they have to keep their balcony windows closed to get some peace and quiet.

“Nobody intervened after the regulations came into effect, everything is the same as before,” said a resident surnamed Wei.

Wei said she drowns out the racket with the television.

An outdoor dance gathering in Minhang District was the unlikely setting for a killing  this week. An elderly dancer is alleged to have stabbed a man to death after another dancer stepped on the senior’s toes.


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