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LCQ11: Light pollution
     Following is a question by the Hon Priscilla Leung and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (July 5):
     I have recently received several complaints from residents of Hung Hom, claiming that a nearby hotel, which opened in April this year, left its large external lighting installations switched on for long hours at night, seriously affecting their rest and even causing some of them to suffer from health problems such as seeing glare and insomnia. Regarding the problem of light pollution in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of complaints about nuisance caused by large external lighting installations received by the Environmental Protection Department in each of the past three years, and how the Department handled such complaints;
(2) whether it will consider taking measures in the near future to urge the persons in charge of the enterprises concerned (including the aforesaid hotel) to switch off their large external lighting installations during late night hours or shorten the luminous time of such installations; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it will conduct public consultation on introduction of legislation to regulate light pollution and initiate the legislative procedure; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(1) The number of complaints about external lighting (breakdown by the type of installations) received by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) from January 2014 to March this year is at the Annex. Given the wide range of external lighting installations, it would be difficult to formulate unequivocal standards to categorise the scale of the installations. As such, the EPD does not have the breakdowns by the scale of lighting installations.
     Upon receipt of complaints about light nuisance caused by external lighting, the EPD will relay the complainants' concerns and requests to the persons responsible for the lighting installations in question, and advise them to refer to the Guidelines on Industry Best Practices for External Lighting Installations (the Guidelines) and take appropriate measures to minimise the impacts of the lighting installations on the residents in the vicinity. Upon receipt of complaints, most of the persons responsible for the lighting installations will adopt measures to minimise light nuisance as far as practicable. The EPD will also invite them to sign up to the Charter on External Lighting (the Charter), encouraging them to switch off during preset times lighting installations with decorative, promotional or advertising purposes that affect the outdoor environment.
(2) Upon receipt of the complaint against light nuisance caused by floodlights at the swimming pool on the podium and the signboard at the external wall of the coffee shop on ground floor of a hotel in Hung Hom in mid-April this year, the EPD conducted immediate investigation and found that the lighting installations concerned were switched off at around 11 pm. The EPD has written to the hotel management to relay the concerns of the residents in the vicinity, and advised the hotel to refer to the Guidelines and adopt light nuisance mitigating measures. The hotel management replied in writing in late-April that the floodlights on the podium had been turned off at 10 pm after the swimming pool was closed. The hotel had explained that there were specific lighting requirements under the licence of the swimming pool, including the maintenance of certain level of illumination at all sidewalks, standing space adjoining the rim of the pool and the water surface of the pool to ensure safety. Except for essential lighting, the hotel would not turn on the external lighting installation of the swimming pool from late night to early morning in order to minimise impacts on residents in the vicinity. Besides, the hotel had also advised that the signboard on ground floor was turned off at 11 pm after the coffee shop was closed.
(3) Having thoroughly considered the views collected during the public engagement exercise, the Task Force on External Lighting (Task Force), set up by the Government in 2011, submitted its report in April 2015. The report pointed out that the views collected during the public engagement exercise were divergent. While some called for immediate legislation, others objected to any form of regulation, including voluntary measures. The respondents' diverse views on the issue of external lighting reflected the lack of mainstream public opinion in support for rigorous regulation of external lighting such as statutory control. Therefore, the Task Force recommended the adoption of multi-pronged approach, including implementing a voluntary charter and re-launching the Guidelines to encourage switching off lighting installations with decorative, promotional or advertising purposes that affect the outdoor environment during preset times.
     The Government is striving to implement the multi-pronged measures recommended by the Task Force, including introducing the Charter to encourage owners of/persons responsible for external lighting installations to switch off during preset times (i.e. from 11 pm or midnight to 7 am the following day) lighting with decorative, promotional or advertising purposes that affect the outdoor environment.  The Charter took effect in April 2016.  So far, more than 4 800 properties and shops have signed up to the Charter. The signatory list and details of the Charter have been uploaded to www.charteronexternallighting.gov.hk.
     To further promote the Charter, the Government has recently launched a Partnership Scheme to invite advertising companies and trade/professional bodies or associations to become Charter Partners. The Partners will encourage through their networks other companies, business contacts, partners and clients, etc, to sign up their premises with external lighting installations to the Charter. As at June this year, four organisations have joined the Partnership Scheme.
     The Environment Bureau (ENB) continues to promote the Guidelines. Since May 2016, a number of seminars have been held to appeal to various sectors to adopt the good practices stated in the Guidelines when planning for or managing their external lighting installations. In addition, all Government departments have to switch off all external lighting with decorative, promotional or advertising purposes at 11 pm and observe the requirements set out in the Guidelines.
     The ENB will assess the effectiveness of the Charter around 2018 to 2019, including the conduct of survey on public perception of light nuisance, their response to the Charter, and how the business establishments respond to complaints from the public, etc. The Government will also study the overseas regimes and experiences in regulating external lighting, and assess whether those standards and practices are applicable to Hong Kong, so as to examine whether it is necessary to take further actions.
Ends/Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:30
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