Light pollution makes life in flat unbearable

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 April, 2009, 12:00am

Cheung Sui-cheuk avoids cooking at night because she fears the distraction of flashing lights from an insurance company's building opposite her Wan Chai flat may cause her to chop off a finger.

Several floors below, the Ko family has placed newspaper over bedroom windows facing an illuminated advertising sign on the same building featuring basketball star Yao Ming so they can sleep.

The families' nightmare began about two weeks ago when the China Life Insurance Building at the junction of Hennessy Road and Tonnochy Road underwent a facelift and flashing lights were installed in rows on the exterior.

From red to yellow and green to blue, the lights have been left switched on from dusk till dawn, affecting the lives of about 100 residents in the Chi Bo Building, which faces the insurance giant's office tower.

'The lights are flashing so frequently and quickly that I cannot concentrate on anything.

'Sometimes, I just feel very dizzy when the lights keeping changing and flashing,' Ms Cheung, who lives with her 95-year-old mother and sister, said.

'I was worried about working in the kitchen at night, doing things like cutting vegetables. I was afraid I might mistakenly cut my fingers off if I was distracted by the lights,' she said.

Ms Cheung has hired a domestic maid to help look after her mother and is relieved she no longer has to work in the kitchen.

The shower and dining room are also affected by the lights but Ms Cheung does not know how or where to complain.

'They are just doing business and we do not want to make too much noise about that. We respect their freedom, too,' she said.

'But for a large company like China Life, you don't have to use so many lights to let people know about it.'

Even with newspaper over the windows, the curtains do not keep out all the excess light.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, president of Green Sense, said the green group had received several complaints recently from residential buildings in the area about the light pollution.

'Some of them, as far as I know, even reported [the matter] to the police to seek help as they found it intolerable. And as a result, China Life has agreed to switch off the lights at 10pm,' he said.

Wan Chai used to be spared excessive light pollution but there had been an increasing trend to use lights and even giant LCD screens along Hennessy Road for publicity purposes, he said. He called on the government to enact a light-pollution law that limited the use of such lights.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said it had received a complaint on March 25 and had inspected the site and advised the property's management to reduce the lights' intensity or switch them off before late in the evening.

The department was assessing the feasibility of regulating external lighting by legislation.

'Matters such as overseas practices in guiding and regulating external lighting, and a survey on the impact of external lighting in Hong Kong will be covered,' the spokesman said.

'It is expected that the study will be completed by the end of 2009.'

China Life Insurance (Overseas) Company did not reply to inquiries about the complaint.