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City needs more enlightened approach to nightly neon blaze

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am

The brighter the lights in our city and the longer they shine, the hotter and dirtier it will become. Excessive use of lighting for shops, advertising billboards and building decorations is fast becoming the norm, creating a new kind of pollution, known as light pollution. This affects the view of the night sky; it wastes energy; adds more pollution to our atmosphere; and creates a light nuisance that affects the daily life of some residents.

According to government figures, our per capita average consumption of electricity on lighting alone increased by 10 per cent between 1997 and 2005, while the population increase for the same period was only 4.9 per cent. This points to the wasteful and exaggerated manner we now light the so-called Pearl of the Orient and, as a direct result, we are covering it with a layer of smog for most of the time.

Any evening stroll along either Nathan Road or in Causeway Bay, the busiest nighttime shopping areas in Hong Kong, will demonstrate this: extreme brightness of lighting for billboards, shops and building decorations - to the extent that some of them even shine throughout the entire night when most of us are sleeping. Readings at street level under some illuminated billboards are equivalent to a fine day, or three times as bright as Sha Tin Racecourse during evening races.

Currently with no legislation to prevent light pollution and light nuisance, if your bedroom is lit at night by an outdoor advertising spotlight, any complaint to the government will get you nothing but frustration.

Friends of the Earth (HK) recently launched the Dim it 6.21 Lights Out campaign, which aims to persuade each of us to conserve energy by taking small steps in the home or workplace. Switching off the lights in the city for an hour won't achieve great savings, even with support involving 100 buildings and billboards. However, we want to spread a clear message to all sectors of the community that this city has been wasting a lot of energy.

There will be a Lights Out evening show at Chater Garden, Central, tonight, from 8pm, with various kinds of performance to promote the Lights Out theme. All are welcome.

Edwin Lau, director, Friends of the Earth