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Public Urged To Report Cases of Light Pollution

Cheung Chi-fai – Updated on Apr 21, 2008 – SCMP

The public should adopt a zero-tolerance approach to light pollution and report cases to the government to encourage drafting of a regulation to control outdoor lighting, Friends of the Earth said.

The Environmental Protection Department received 40 complaints about light pollution last year, the most in seven years.

The green group said most of the complaints were not resolved because there was no regulation controlling the location and magnitude of outdoor spotlights and neon signs.

Friends of the Earth said yesterday that controls on lighting put in place to protect flight safety had been relaxed since the closing of Kai Tak airport in 1998, allowing lights to spring up on the tops of buildings.

“Most people simply passively respond to the pollution by blocking their windows with thick curtains and pretend to live as usual,” the group’s environmental affairs manger, Hahn Chu Hon-keung, said. “The fact is, what they do is not the most desirable. What we need now are some substantial stories with `flesh and blood’ to kick away the numbness of the government and compel it to address this problem seriously.”

An inquiry by the green group as part of its Dim It campaign found some victims of light pollution had difficulty having their grievances addressed.

An elderly woman living in Argyle Street, Mong Kok, was forced to sleep in her dining room because of strong light beaming into her bedroom from a neon sign illegally built on her flat’s exterior wall.

Another case involved a group of residents in Tai Wai who were driven to stage a sit-in to protest against a steak house’s neon sign. Some had found the light unbearable and had to move home.

A survey of 1,500 people by the group in October found most agreed that the city’s lighting was excessively bright and 8 per cent had been affected by light pollution.

Kam Nai-wai, a Democratic Party Central and Western District councillor, said the council had discussed light pollution with the government four times to no avail.

A spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department said light pollution was not subject to control under existing environmental regulations, but outdoor advertising lights were regulated by various departments for safety reasons.

“We are also monitoring international trends on the issue of light pollution to further improve lighting systems,” she said.

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