Well-planned and sustainable light displays can curb pollution

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2011, 12:00am

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First of all Paul Tse Wai-chun, functional constituency representative for tourism, pronounced at a Legco panel on the topic that wealthy home owners who suffered from light pollution should move home. Presumably he believes that the rest of the community should just grin and bear it. Now we have Angel Ng ('Don't like light pollution? Move', April 9) advising residents of areas with light pollution problems to move to other districts. Perhaps they could indicate where we can find these light-pollution-free havens?

Should we move to Shek Kwu Chau?

As I remember it, one of the first mass protests against light pollution came from residents in Tseung Kwan O objecting to the excessive glare from lights erected outside a shopping mall.

Now, Tseung Kwan O is not even a minor tourist attraction. It is in fact primarily a residential area.

This is a clear indication that light pollution in this city is rampant and there is an urgent need for measures to curb excessive light displays. The unfolding saga at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is a wake-up call that a review of energy usage is long overdue.

Nobody objects to attractive and inventive light displays powered by low-energy technology. What is objectionable is the amount of energy that is wasted by over-lit displays that cause unnecessary glare while boosting the local temperature by double digits. Hong Kong could cut its energy consumption by half if both display and general lighting utilised the latest technology and were operated via sensors and timers.

Near my home I can see window displays that are backed by more than 100 fluorescent tubes per panel. The same effect could be achieved via half a dozen artfully placed spotlights. Apart from the waste of energy, there is also the problem of the toxic material inside these tubes that will eventually end up in a landfill.

Both Mr Tse and Ms Ng believe that mitigating light displays will be the death knell for our tourism business. Rubbish. Environmental degradation is a worldwide problem. Many of our tourists come from areas with even greater pollution problems than those we face here and will only applaud our foresight in taking measures to save energy and eliminate toxic waste.

People who complain about light pollution do not want the city to be plunged into darkness at 8pm. What we do want is well-planned and sustainable light displays that respect the rights of other stakeholders in the neighbourhood and allow residents to enjoy the universal right to the quiet enjoyment of the homes that they are working so hard to pay for.

Our city needs intelligent lighting not the current in-your-face and often downright ugly displays that are being foisted on us.

If this cannot be achieved through appeals to common sense and civic responsibility then legislation is the only option to provide a level playing field for all Hongkongers.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui