LCQ17: Light pollution

     Following is a question by the Hon James To Kun-sun and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 3):


     It has been reported that the number of complaints about light pollution has continued to increase in recent years and, as the Government has not yet introduced relevant legislation, the Environmental Protection Department can only adopt an advisory approach when handling complaints concerning commercial signboards, etc, but such an approach is ineffective.  It has been learnt that regarding legislation on light pollution, the Under Secretary for the Environment has indicated that a proposal on controlling light pollution could be made in the third quarter of this year at the earliest.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the numbers of complaints received in each of the past three years by various government departments about light pollution involving government departments and private organisations respectively;

(b) given that the Government had indicated in its reply to my question on June 18, 2008 that relevant government departments (including the Leisure and Cultural Services Department) had put in place various guidelines to avoid causing light nuisance to the residents, but there are still incessant reports about serious light pollution problems in government venues (e.g. the soccer pitch in Po Kong Village Road Park and Tsing Yi Promenade, etc) in recent years, whether the Government, in the past three years, had reviewed the causes of these complaints involving government venues, assessed if the various departments had followed the relevant guidelines, reviewed if the existing guidelines could match the public's increasing awareness of environmental protection, and enhanced the co-ordination among various departments to address the problems of light pollution;

(c) among the complaints involving private organisations in (a), of the number of complaints handled using the advisory approach, and whether the Government had assessed the effectiveness of this approach; if it had, of the effectiveness of the approach and the number of complaints with improvements made after being dealt with using this advisory approach;

(d) whether, in the past three years, the Government had participated in activities relating to reduction in light pollution organised by community organisations, and whether it had liaised with community and business organisations to collect relevant views; if it had participated in such activities and liaised with these organisations, of the numbers of such occasions and the contents; and

(e) when the report on controlling light pollution will be completed and published; and when the Government will conduct public consultation on introduction of legislation to control light pollution, and when it will formally initiate the legislative procedure?



(a) In the past three years, the number of light pollution complaints received by various Government departments, involving Government departments and private organisations is as follows:

                        2007       2008       2009

Complaints involving      44         95        152
Government departments

Complaints involving      59        104        237
private organisations

(b) Relevant Government departments have been reviewing their guidelines on external lighting regularly, to prevent any nuisance to the public caused by external lighting at Government venues.

     For venues under the Housing Department, the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) promulgated technical design guidelines on external public lighting installations in 1998, which have been updated from time to time taking into account the need to protect the environment and to minimise the impact on residents.  For example, non-essential lights are switched off at midnight; floodlights in ball courts are switched off when they are not in use or after midnight; suitable lamp reflectors are used to focus light directly onto the ground in order to minimise spilled light falling onto residential units; and lighting fittings directing upward to the sky are avoided as far as possible.  HA follows the technical design guidelines when designing public housing estates and their lightings, and will make suitable arrangements for individual circumstances, such as changing the operation hours, adjusting the projection angle, reducing wattage of lamps or relocating light poles, in order to minimise the impact of external lighting installations on the public.  

     Separately, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) will, taking into account the operational and safety needs, seek to minimise the impact on nearby residents in installing lighting systems at their venues.  Reference will be made to international standards to ensure that users can enjoy suitable illumination level while conducting activities in the venues.  The lights will be focused to illuminate the venue area as far as possible.  LCSD has also adopted various measures to minimise lighting impact on residents nearby, such as adjusting the angle of spot lights, using lamp shades, directing lights at parks downwards, and using light bulbs with lower light intensity.  Lighting of facilities with low utilisation rate at night will be turned off as long as it will not affect operation and safety.  Furthermore, LCSD is actively implementing energy saving measures at their venues.  For instance, guidelines on operating hours of lights at parks and floodlights have been drawn up; sectional switches and photo sensors have been installed; energy saving fluorescent lamps or high efficiency light bulbs have been adopted progressively, and some decorative lights have either been removed or switched off.  These measures also help minimise the impact of lighting installations on residents nearby.
     As regards street lights, the Highways Department (HyD) will avoid installing street lights on the external walls of buildings as this may affect the residents.  In case street lights have to be installed near residential units on lower floors due to site constraints, the HyD will, taking into account the site conditions and residents' views, take practical measures to reduce the impact on residents, such as using cut-off lanterns and light shields.

(c) Upon receipt of light nuisance complaints involving private organisations, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will, in general, reflect complainants' concerns and appeals to the responsible parties of the lighting installations or the companies concerned.  The EPD also offers advice as appropriate, such as lowering the lighting intensity where appropriate, adjusting the angle of spot lights to avoid nuisances from spilled light, or switching off non-essential lights at an earlier time.  The Administration's advice has generally been well received by relevant responsible parties or companies with improvement measures taken accordingly.

(d) and (e) The Government supports environmental protection initiatives from the community through various means. For instance, with funding support from the Sustainable Development Fund in 2008, Friends of the Earth (HK) implemented the "Dim it: A Project on the Best Use of Light Resources" project. The project, which commenced in April 2008 and completed in June 2009, aimed to enhance public awareness and understanding of light pollution with a view to reducing excessive use of lights.

     In addition, the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) of the EPD also financed the University of Hong Kong to conduct a "Survey of Light Pollution in Hong Kong" from November 2007 to April 2009.  Data on night sky brightness were collected by over 200 volunteers including secondary school students and astronomy enthusiasts.  The project team compiled the first "Light Pollution Map of Hong Kong" with data collected, which has been uploaded to the project website for public's reference.  The project team has also obtained funding from the ECF to conduct more comprehensive monitoring by setting up a "Hong Kong Night Sky Brightness Monitoring Network".  The study commenced in June 2010 and is expected to last for two years.

     In parallel, the Environment Bureau has commissioned a consultancy study on energy wastage and light nuisances of external lighting.  The study includes a research in overseas experiences, an analysis of local situations and an opinion survey with stakeholders and related sectors.  We are consolidating the findings of the study and considering the means and feasibility of regulating external lighting, with a view to making recommendations on the means to address issues arising from external lighting.  We plan to consult the relevant Panel of the Legislation Council and seek views from stakeholders and relevant advisory bodies on the recommendations in early 2011.

Ends/Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:05