• Thu
  • Oct 2, 2014
  • Updated: 5:42am
NewsHong Kong
ENVIRONMENT

Light pollution in Hong Kong 'worst on the planet'

It’s 1,200 times brighter over Tsim Sha Tsui than a normal dark sky, three-year study finds, posing a danger to health and wildlife

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 8:55am

Hong Kong is believed to be the world's worst city for light pollution, with levels in Tsim Sha Tsui 1,200 times brighter than a normal dark sky.

The findings were described as shocking by survey leader Dr Jason Pun Chun-shing, of the Department of Physics at the University of Hong Kong.

He said he could find nowhere else on earth as badly affected.

From the notorious hotspot of Tsim Sha Tsui to the remote Sai Kung countryside, the researchers found excessive brightness of varying degrees that scientists said could damage health and wildlife.

Unlike major cities elsewhere - including London, Frankfurt, Sydney and Shanghai - Hong Kong has no laws to control external lighting.

But Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said he hoped a government task force on light pollution could come up with proposals for more "regulatory elements" for public discussion in the middle of this year.

He did not say if he meant legislation.

In the world's largest light pollution study, scientists collected more than five million brightness measurements at 18 monitoring stations over the past three years. They used an instrument known as a Sky Quality Meter installed on roofs. The worst reading was at the Space Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui from 8.30pm to 11pm, which was 1,200 times the International Astronomical Union standard.

Brightness started to dip after 11pm when lights gradually went out. Tsim Sha Tsui residents once threatened to take developers to court over excessive lights.

Even at the Astropark stargazing facility near High Island Reservoir - where most would expect a natural dark sky - the brightness was still 20 times the standard. Health specialists say light pollution could disrupt the biological clock and affect brain and hormone function.

Pun said that in some European cities like Madrid and Florence, the readings were normally below 100 times the standard.

He said energy-wasting signboards or spotlights that usually point upwards could generally be blamed in Hong Kong.

He added: "Lighting is supposed to provide safety and security for people's daily life. Lights are for human use and not for the sky. But what we see is that many lights are pointing to the sky."

Lighting is supposed to provide safety and security for people's daily life. Lights are for human use and not for the sky. But what we see is that many lights are pointing to the sky

Conservationists were alarmed by the reading at the Wetland Park in Tin Shui Wai at 130 times the standard.

Hong Kong Entomological Society chairman Yiu Vor said he feared the brightness would affect the breeding of fireflies, including the endemic bent-winged firefly, which relied on light signals to mate.

"They might not be able to notice the signals in a bright environment or they simply release the signal less frequently. This would affect their continuing survival." Yiu said insects that relied on moonlight to navigate could also be affected.

Pun said Hong Kong needed tougher measures to curb light pollution, instead of relying on voluntary technical guidelines.

Sydney requires all private illuminated signs to be scrutinised by the city council.

London also makes such nuisances a statutory offence carrying a fine or even imprisonment.

Share

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

16

This article is now closed to comments

SpeakFreely
This is one of the many problems Hk have due to the fact that Hongkongers are not changing their life style to meet a changing world. World is looking for less pollution worldwide. Hk is still wasting resource for nothing. Hk is behind in many many things for no reason besides being Irrational. We are one of the few major metropolitans without a decent recycle collection. On another note, Hk is expensive in rent but we still have almost zero online shopping, or close to zero, just because Hk people are not changing their shopping habits. There are many many bad or outdated habits we should start changing before too late. Not because we are convenient shopping in Hk ( we are not that convenient as you think) just because we have bad habit.
pandalogic2010
Hi everyone. I live in Finland. Just woke up this morning, looked at the distance from my top-floor apartment. Visibility today is more than 40km, sky is crisp and clear. Some birds visit the balcony and check for food. Temperature is about -6 degrees centigrade. When I go out I know what the air will feel. It is pure. Clear. Nothing like haze in HK, where I was just a week ago.
I slept pretty well. It is quiet. Not that quiet like the countryside, where it is possible to sleep 12 hours (I'm over 40 yrs old!) with no difficulty at all. There is so quiet I can hear my blood running through my vains. Did I mention about the darkness, where I can see all the starts on the sky?
I spend around 3 months a year in HK. I love the city, I love the freedom. Some may think Finland or EC is free. It is not. It is turning to be police state of all times. Unfair laws, unearthy tax rate, and all the police state strategy to make the people obey.
These small things, small adjustments to freedom lead to bigger adjustments. Soon no-one remembers what it was like when this and that was legal or at least not regulated. Trust me, I have seen all that in here.
Keep Hongkong free. Because of the freedom you will see more and more western businessmen and entrepeneurs bringing their money to your banks, paying taxes, accountants, services, hotels. My opinion is that HK is all about money. It is all about economic freedom.
Do not destroy that.
hard times !
in the eyes of this Old Hong Kong,light pollution in the territory is really not so vital to our livelihood or our core values: freedoms of expression and speech of which I really enjoy ever since my teenagehood in secondary schools.I clearly remember in my term of office as the editor of a current affairs column on the school notice board,once I pinned an article titled:' the rich get richer while the poor the poorer'.I was warned verbally by my guidance teacher ---a female history subject teacher who told me to be cautious.She didn't elaborate.But in those days,it was very conservative in politics---a phenomenon of Colonial rule which never encourages politics.Yet now we Hongkongers are the masters of our home---Hong Kong--where Hongkongers are governed by themselves and we enjoy high autonomy and is pursuing a universal suffrage in 2017 of our directly-elected chief executive.Why can't we speak our minds even in this Comments column of a local English newspaper on affairs concerning our beloved Hongkong and our mother country ? Right ? Yet some nasty guys hate to see different views from so-called oppositionists (maybe I am one of them) and they would try their best to diminish such voices or views with every means--legal or illegal (such as using scam e-mails /phishing) to destroy oppostionists' computers' operation so as not to let them express their views here in the column ! How wicked and evil-minded such guys are ! Shame on them and their dirty tricks !
stephenho
The imbeciles who decided on putting that massive screen on top of Forever21 opposite SOGO should be slapped...
HK-Explorer
Light is a big impact on HK people. As well as noise.
I have 2 apartments. 1 near a road and 1 not. Whenever I go to the one near a road it is very noticeable the noise and hard to sleep. I also notice it being too bright even with the curtains closed.
thus less noise and less light is much much better than people may realize. Better sleep = better life.
johnyuan
In 1969, it was a hit to my audience in America showing them slides of night view of Shanghai Street with glittering neon overhanging the street. I am sure the same audience still will at awe when visit Hong Kong that Shanghai Street night scene is now everywhere. Unfortunately, such garish way in lighting up a city besides attracting tourists is a nuisance to residents. Law in Hong Kong in control of commercial signs of their light-level and operation time is more in favor to the advertisers than the affected residents. The professors are doing a good job and hope they will succeed in stopping such selfish and environmentally senseless behavior. New York City limits use of lighted signs to the Broadway District in supporting a commercial tradition there as well as to continue to attract locals and tourists as a place of destination.
By the way, things could be cheaper from electrical bill savings – good for the tourists and locals alike.
Byebye
We can only change when we acknowledge we need to change. It may not be inccorect to say the display of lights has become a display of competitive superiority and distorted glamour to show we are at the top over others; in this case, other building of other organisations. Such is the mind of the arrogance and the self glorified mentalty of superiority!
mcha290
I agree with bbchkg.
Why can't we focus on fixing air pollution and pollution in the sea? Or problems with society.
361 complaints about light pollution seem pathetic compared to complaints about food safety and air pollution.
johnyuan
Hong Kong burns coal to generate electricity. Electrical lighting and even MTR all consume electricity and yet we are so easy to think they are clean. I don't. The light pollution contributes air pollution everyday in Hong Kong.
captam
Government is one of the worst offenders in remote areas with far too intense and unnecessary lighting at their 'secured' installations and on little-used public thoroughfares.
One example: the previously beautiful night-time sea view of Lantau Island across from Peng Chau is ruined perpetually by the totally unnecessary barrage of strong yellow flood lights illuminating the landing key (unused at night) and sea approaches of their explosives storage depot. This is a total waste of electricity and ruins the environment. For security purposes it more than adequate to only have these lights switched on automatically if and when infra-red and other sensors detect a possible intrusion. This would save thousands of dollars in electricity charges each month as well as returning tranquility to the Lantau green area. Viewed from Peng Chau this is currently an eyesore.
 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or