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Experts Say Fines on Neon Signs Will Raise Light Pollution Awareness
Provincial authorities in Guangdong are now going over a plan to charge business owners who contribute to light pollution with their blinding neon signs and billboards. As we hear from Li Ningjing, while many are wondering if this policy could become the norm in many Chinese cities, some sociologists are suggesting that the potential move in Guangdong is, at least, shedding some light on the issue.
Light pollution is not an issue for most Chinese people in rural areas, where putting up street lights is an ongoing project, or for urban residents who live far away from city night life. But residents who are affected say the lights are seriously disturbing, every night.
"They are too glaring and flash too quickly. They don't turn off before midnight."
"After closing the curtains and turning off lights in your room, you still feel like you're standing in a club."
Plenty of research proves excessive lighting can cause headaches, nausea, eye diseases and also increased stress or anxiety.
Some Chinese city residents go to bed early, and many still live in the city centers, mingled with shopping and entertainment districts. Especially in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, plans to regenerate densely populated downtown areas into recreational centers are still in the middle stages.
Statistics from the Guangzhou Scientific Research Institute of Environmental Protection show brightness on some busy city streets at night can reach some 1,000 lumens, 60 times higher than the standard level.
Li Yujun, an urban environment expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says it is reasonable to question the feasibility of the policy because neither affected residents nor billboard owners are clear on how much excessive light is acceptable.
"People know a lot about air, water and sound pollution, but very little about light pollution. But metro cities cannot get away from neon lights now. So it is quite urgent for policymakers to set some standards to let ordinary people know when the light is harmful and make billboard owners realize they could get fined for excessive lighting."
Li Yujun says it would be a nice move on the part of the local government.
"Of course it is not easy to implement such a measure, but it is valuable to drag residents and policymakers into a discussion about how to deal with light pollution."
Chinese people may see more of this kind of enlightened regard for public affairs during rapid urbanization. Light pollution is also a case where a quick policy response could free affected citizens from having to argue with club owners by themselves.