After air and noise, now, light pollution

Panduranga Mhaske
Monday, 25 December 2017

Activist demands policy to regulate light pollution

Mumbai: Sumaira Abdulali, an activist from Awaaz Foundation, is concerned about colourful and flashing lights along Juhu Beach which has been recently lit up by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) by setting up tall poles on the seashore, having colourful lights on it.

She wrote a letter to civic chief Ajoy Mehta and Environment Secretary of State Satish Gawai and demanded drafting a policy on light pollution.
She also demanded that the State government should consider framing a suitable policy to regulate light pollution in Mumbai and other metro cities, from various sources including street lighting, private security lighting, hoardings and beautification projects etc.

Abdulali worked for noise pollution for years and identified silence zones in Mumbai. She has been fighting for the last 15 years to protect the city from noise pollution.

Sakal Times carried a news report on December 5 about light pollution near Marine Drive (Queens’ Neckless) in Mumbai causing sleeping disorder for the residents of south Mumbai.

Abdulali said that the beach and seafront areas of Mumbai are some of the few remaining places where the natural beauty of moon and stars are visible.

In India, many festivals are based on phases of the moon, such as Diwali, Buddha Purnima, Eid and Holi. Also, as light pollution is caused by excessive lighting and it is a major cause of sleep deprivation, hormonal changes and other related illness. It damages the environment and other species such as birds.

Hence, she also requested the government to consider light pollution as a serious environmental hazard and frame a regulatory policy to balance the safety requirements of night-time lighting.

The BMC has also stated their intention of similarly beautifying and creating safety at all other Mumbai beaches (except Chowpatty which is administered by a Bombay High Court appointed committee.)

She also stated that in such beautification projects which include lighting, especially high intensity lighting which does not necessarily relate to lighting as a safety measure but is recreational in nature, the health effects of lighting on residents of nearby areas should be considered as part of the planning process. Also, beautification projects may not be implemented without specific attention being paid to possible adverse health effects of extraneous lighting causing light pollution.

Awaaz Foundation used a lux meter to measure and record light levels at Juhu Beach at about 7.15 pm. A lux meter measures ambient light levels and not the intensity of the light source (which is measured in lumens). The readings were taken just underneath the newly installed coloured lights, placed at a height of about 100 feet at intervals throughout the landward side of Juhu Beach, and at the water’s edge on the seaward side of the beach.

It was observed that the lux level immediately underneath the lights was 67,000 lux (the equivalent of direct sunlight) and the lux level near the water’s edge was 0.03 lux (the equivalent of a moonlit night). The great difference between the recorded lux levels highlights the inability of the installed lighting fixtures to provide lighting suitable to ensure safety throughout the beach. At the same time, the high intensity of LED lighting in its immediate vicinity next to residential buildings causes light disturbance and consequent adverse health effects for residents of the buildings. It also blocks out natural views of the stars and moon.
Uniformity ratios are as important as lux levels while designing appropriate lighting plans. Unfortunately, Mumbai has no policies to regulate intensity or uniformity of lighting and no specific lighting plan which includes all light sources to provide adequate lighting for safety and comfort, while ensuring that excessive light is not created in the form of light pollution.

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