DOSSIER: Action against light pollution encouraged

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MAINLY IGNORED:
Taipei Amateur Astronomers Association President Liu Chih-an Said Light Pollution Should Be Considered During Environmental Impact Assessments

  • By Lo Chi / Journalist

Although less than 1% of complaints reported annually to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) relate to light pollution, leading the agency not to see it as a problem, the chairman of the Taiwan Dark-Sky Association, Axiou Lin (林 正 修), disagrees.

Members of the public have filed 300 to 400 light pollution complaints a year since the promulgation of the Light Pollution Control Guidelines (光 污染 管理 指引) in March of last year, the EPA said.

While more than 50% of the 200,000 complaints filed with the agency each year relate to noise pollution, the director general of the Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control, Tsai Meng-yu (蔡孟裕), said it receives 300-400 complaints of light pollution.

Photo courtesy of Hu Hsiu-hsing, Cingjing Sustainability Association

Of these, 80% are from the six special municipalities, with Taipei accounting for more than 50% of them, Tsai added.

Although the EPA is the government authority responsible for tackling light pollution, Lin said, all the agency could come up with to tackle the problem was a set of guidelines – the guidelines for controlling light pollution. light pollution.

“Guidelines are the last consideration when it comes to laws,” Lin added.

“As a simple set of guidelines, it is not at the level of a decree or even an administrative directive, and the EPA does not allocate a budget to promote an information campaign on the need to reduce light pollution, “he added.

Most countries are well aware of light pollution, Lin said, adding that the International Commission on Illumination and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America have also published a related protocol, such as the Five Principles for Outdoor Lighting. responsible.

“However, the Taiwanese public does not understand the problems of light pollution and is far behind the international communities,” he said.

Taiwanese companies oppose paying fines and oppose local governments seeking to enact light pollution laws that provide for fines as penalties, Lin said, adding that “business owners choose to continue to damaging the night sky environment, but that in doing so they miss out on a business advantage.

For example, South Korea enacted laws regulating warm-colored lighting at night, prompting the lighting industry to develop smart products, such as soft-lit lamps for sleeping, that increase the competitiveness of industry in the international market, said Lin.

“Similar to South Korea, Taiwan is an export dependent country, but Taiwan does not have a national standard on what makes a product an emitter of light pollution,” he said. “Meanwhile, in people’s day-to-day lives, the EPA fails to recognize light pollution as a public hazard, even to the point of assigning responsibility for it to other government agencies. “

Lin said the light pollution control guidelines fall short in four areas: they don’t have enough authority, they don’t set a standard for the colors used in lights, they don’t delegate oversight power to local governments and they do not specify when the lights should be turned off.

“The government gives grants to companies that produce blue LED lighting,” he said. “Although it saves energy, its color temperature increases light pollution levels.”

Lin urged the EPA to conduct a more in-depth assessment of the fundamental concepts and mechanisms needed for administrative oversight, to draft a “light pollution control law” that could better guide consumers on the smart use of light pollution. lighting at night and adding pollution light in the provisions of the Public Nuisance Dispute Mediation Act (公害 糾紛 處理 法).

Taipei Amateur Astronomers Association President Liu Chih-an (劉志安) said light pollution is considered a lesser form of pollution with no immediate effect on human health, but it does affect human health. natural environment and ecosystem.

For example, the Czech Republic passed laws on light pollution in 2002 that require street lighting to be fitted with reflectors that prevent light from being emitted horizontally outwards, making it the first nation in the world to say: “No” to nighttime pollution caused by artificial sources. lighting, Liu said.

“Hong Kong is considered the most serious source of light pollution in the world,” Liu said. “But even there, they set standards for outdoor lighting sources in 2012.”

“The standard should be used to assess the diffusion of nighttime lighting and its influence on the surrounding neighborhood,” Liu said.

“In 2016, Hong Kong launched an outdoor lighting charter, in which participating companies turned off their lights after 11 pm,” he added.

In 2016, South Korea enacted the Law on Prevention of Light Pollution from Artificial Lighting, which allows the application of light levels for street lighting, decorative lighting, advertising lighting and lighting for digital multimedia and signs, with those that go beyond the standards. faces fines of up to 10 million won (US $ 8,456), Liu said.

“For large infrastructure construction and land development projects in Taiwan, an environmental impact assessment is required, which assesses how the planned project would affect the environment, but it does not take into account light pollution. “Liu said.

Light pollution should be taken into account in these assessments, and the government should regulate it in the same way that the Air Pollution Control Law (空氣 污染 防制 法) regulates air pollution and the Air Pollution Control Law. against noise (噪音 管制 法) regulates noise pollution. , he said.

The existing light pollution control guidelines serve primarily as a reference when government agencies receive complaints from the public, he said.

“It does not have the executive power and does not have defined regulations on the control of lighting devices,” Liu added.

“At present, the Taiwanese public is at an early stage of awareness of light pollution issues. The government should implement laws to regulate it, as well as for air and noise pollution, putting in place legal provisions as a basis for sanctions and imposing fines, ”he added. .

Light pollution is known to have a detrimental effect on the natural environment: it induces abnormal plant growth, harms agricultural production, interferes with the behavior of nocturnal creatures and even endangers human health. he declares.

“A provision regulating light pollution should be added as a final element of environmental impact assessments,” he said. “Only then can we have complete protection of Taiwan’s environment.”

Tsai said that a “Light Pollution Control Guidelines 2.0” could provide measurements for brightness, contrast, lighting angles and flicker frequency, among other evaluation criteria.

“Drafting a law to control light pollution is also a possibility, but for the moment we are still collecting all the information necessary for an assessment,” he added.

Ophthalmologist Shen Jen-hsiang (沈 仁 翔) said that brighter LED lights have a higher proportion of blue light, which produces reflections at this wavelength and can interfere with people’s biological clocks.

There have been reports in Hong Kong of large LED signs with bright lighting causing people to tear up their eyes, as well as traffic accidents, as passing drivers are affected by the afterimage effect, a he declared.

Shen suggested that people use lower color temperatures and warm-colored lighting, which causes less damage than higher-temperature lighting sources, which emit more blue light.

“The light source should be directed downwards and not emit light horizontally, which can damage people’s eyes. When emitted in unnecessary areas, lights should have reflectors to reduce their brightness and lessen the discomfort they cause in people’s eyes, ”he said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have bought ultraviolet lamps – which are promoted for their antibacterial and disinfectant effects – but they have led to damage to the cornea of ​​the eyes, ”he said. -he declares.

“It was a new phenomenon, because in the past, damage from ultraviolet light only occurred in welders and people working in laboratories, but we are seeing more and more cases of corneal damage,” he said, reminding the public to handle ultraviolet devices with care.

People should protect their eyes and never look directly into ultraviolet lights, he said.

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