Officials must act to curb damaging effects of light pollution

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 January, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong is famous for its spectacular lighting displays at night. You see them on many buildings, often neon lights, flashing and changing colour. At Victoria Harbour we have the famous Symphony of Lights. While some people welcome such displays they are leading to over-illumination and light pollution.

It adversely affects some residents. Hong Kong is known as the city that never sleeps, but because of this pollution it would be more appropriate to call it the city that can't get to sleep. Massive and intensely lit advertising billboards and other signs take a toll on people's health and pose a nuisance for them. Some floodlights can be so powerful that they even penetrate thick curtains.

When people suffer from sleep deprivation, they tend to feel stressed and anxious.

Also, as green groups have pointed out, keeping lights blazing all night is a waste of energy which is detrimental to the environment and contributes to global warming.

Light pollution also affects the natural patterns of some animals which have difficulty distinguishing between night and day. Astronomy fans are unable to see the stars in the night sky clearly.

The government has to take responsibility and raise public awareness about the need to combat light pollution. At present we have no regulations controlling this form of pollution. The administration should therefore consider bringing in the appropriate legislation. It should establish a comprehensive night sky brightness monitoring department and urge consumers to switch off unnecessary lights and reduce the use of spotlights.

It can also support initiatives like the 'Dim It' events calling on retailers and building owners to set a lights-off time after business hours to conserve energy. These schemes rely on public participation and social responsibility rather than legislation and restrictions. To curb energy wastage, the government can also set up a recycling system and promote the use of energy-saving bulbs. All these remedies can undoubtedly help limit the negative effect of light pollution on Hong Kong residents and the environment.

Nathaniel Yuen, Sha Tin