Legislative Council of Hong Kong: Introduce External Lighting Regulations to Combat Light Pollution

As Hong Kong continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly evident that light pollution is a major issue in the city. In March 2013, light pollution in Hong Kong was found to be the "worst on the planet", with some areas 1200 times brighter than the international dark sky standard. Although most of us wouldn't bat an eye at the extreme over-illumination, try to imagine those who have to experience the blinding light every evening, every day, every month.

The citizens of Hong Kong who live in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui constantly suffer from light pollution. They live in the midst of the flashing billboards and the overlit store windows, constantly harassed by the intrusion of light. Such bright lighting seeps through most curtains, and causes sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, migraines, reduced alertness, and medically defined stress.

Additionally, the bright but ineffective lighting of a billboard is a waste of energy. The luminal efficiency of fluorescent lights are 20-30 lumens per watt, which is far lower than that of 50 in LED lights. Research by the International Dark Sky Association said 40% of energy for lighting is wasted by over illuminating. This is coupled by the fact that most external lights are not environmentally friendly, contributing to even more energy wasted, as well as distributing heat. This causes overspending especially when cheaper, more efficient lightbulbs are available. In fact, the overillumination of a billboard may produce glare, which makes the board significantly harder to see. A good method to solve this was demonstrated in New York, where all street lamps were changed from fluorescent bulbs to LED lamps. It was estimated that this change would save 17 million US dollars in energy consumption.

With such severe light pollution, chances are growing increasingly slim that the future generation of Hong Kong citizens would see stars. All light produced escapes in to the sky, and is reflected by the atmosphere. This produces an effect known as "skyglow". The skyglow in Hong Kong has grown to be so severe that few stars could be seen at night. If light pollution keeps on growing, it won't be long until there are no stars in the sky.

Overall, it is clear that light pollution in Hong Kong is at a level that is detrimental to health, inefficient in energy usage, and impossible for stargazing. The government of Hong Kong has not done anything to forestall the ever-growing issue. The only document pertaining to external lighting installations is merely a set of "guidelines", where it is advised that "external lighting should be switched off when not needed".

It is understood that night lighting is beneficial to advertising and tourism, but there is no such audience after midnight. The consequences of the light pollution clearly shows the need for a new regulation concerning external lighting in Hong Kong. An apt regulation would be for billboards with a brightness of above 400 lumens to turn off after midnight. Through this regulation, many more could sleep well, money and energy could be saved, more stars would be seen, and there would be no loss.

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